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Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
Nuclear Nonproliferation

The 2020 NPT Review Conference Starts Now: An Interview with Argentine Diplomat Rafael Mariano Grossi


June 2019

The 10th review conference for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty will begin April 27, 2020, just weeks after the 50th anniversary of the treaty’s entry into force. Held every five years, the review conferences offer the treaty’s members a formal opportunity to assess the treaty’s implementation and its states-parties compliance. The conferences provide an opportunity to discuss and seek agreement on steps to advance common goals and objectives related to the three pillars of the agreement, which involve the interconnected obligations of states-parties on nuclear nonproliferation, peaceful uses, and disarmament.

Argentine diplomat Rafael Mariano Grossi will serve as president of the 2020 NPT Review Conference. (Photo: Dean Calma/IAEA)NPT states-parties convened at the United Nations from April 29 to May 10 for the final preparatory committee meeting for the 2020 review conference. They agreed by an unusual mechanism to designate veteran Argentine diplomat Rafael Mariano Grossi as president of the review conference, effective in the last quarter of 2019. The decision empowers Grossi to begin immediate consultations with NPT member states to prepare for the potentially contentious review conference. Grossi is Argentina’s permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, including the International Atomic Energy Agency, where he previously served as assistant director-general for policy.

The ambassador spoke with Arms Control Today on Thursday, May 9 at UN headquarters to describe his plans for the next year.

Arms Control Today: What is the value of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and its review process, and is the 2020 review conference more important because it marks the 50th anniversary of the treaty’s entry into force?

Rafael Mariano Grossi: The treaty is the most important piece of international law that we have had regulating the nuclear order for the past 50 years. The importance of this treaty cannot be overstated.

For me, the review process is an interesting feature of the treaty. It is rare in international law to have treaties reviewed in this thorough way, where the element of accountability enters into play.

The reviews are not always easy because every review is a result of circumstance and circumstances change with time, so what meant something at some point in time might have changed. There are different provisions in any piece of international law, some that are more permanent, and some others, including some in the NPT, that have been maybe superseded with time. For example, the NPT includes references to peaceful nuclear explosions, things that with time fell nicely with no conflict into oblivion because of their anachronistic nature.

But other provisions remain relevant, and in this sense, it is important to have this review. The review process itself is also subject to discussion.

As for the 50-year milestone, anniversaries can have a meaning for some people. For me, as in human life, they are a good opportunity to take stock. In this case, 50 years is a sizable chunk of time where you can assess the impact of the instrument on international life and maybe position it toward the future.

ACT: The preparatory committee has agreed with your selection as president of the 2020 review conference. What is your diplomatic game plan in the lead-up to the review conference? How will you engage key states in the coming months?

Grossi: For me, the review conference starts next Monday [May 13]. Until tomorrow, we are busy with the [preparatory committee]. But as of Monday, we need to start preparing for the review conference.

I plan an initiative that is commensurate with the gravity of the times. It is necessary to have a very thorough process. It is necessary for me and for states-parties to have an opportunity to discuss outside the limits of the formal meeting what is possible and what is feasible, and this requires time and effort.

I have announced a very ambitious program of regional conferences, consultations, workshops, and symposiums. The names of the meetings don’t matter too much; these are opportunities to meet and discuss the NPT in different forms and configurations. It has never been done before. I’m planning to have at least eight or nine of these, apart from the bilateral meetings that are always expected from the president to have with the P5 [the five recognized nuclear-weapon states under the NPT] and others.

There will be an effort on peaceful uses, a topic which I believe has been if not marginalized, then less looked into. It is area that means a lot for the vast majority of the membership. Of course, we are going to be discussing disarmament and nonproliferation too.

What starts now is a very intensive phase in the lead-up to the conference, which made it so important to confirm my review conference presidency. Now this is done, so I can start working and engaging countries with the necessary authority.

ACT: Can you describe your planned meetings in more detail?

Grossi: There are few things that are new in the process. The first is that I will have a bigger, larger, more inclusive table than we have seen before. I mean by this that I will be inviting technical support organizations, national regulators, scientists and technologists, and nuclear power plant operators. I will be inviting people that are active in nuclear applications in all these countries.

Why? Simply because I feel that discussions around the NPT have been limited to diplomats like me or practitioners in nonproliferation and disarmament diplomacy. This is very important and will continue, but we were missing voices from the discussion, those who at the end of the day are benefiting from the system, from the framework, from the modus vivendi that the NPT has set up.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Ford is leading the U.S. initiative "Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament." The initiative is based on the U.S. premise that global security concerns are preventing nuclear-armed nations from reducing their arsenals.  Washington will host the first working group meeting of the initiative in July. (Photo: Paul Morigi/CEIP)I see value in having this conversation, which has political significance. These people may be part of national delegations, and they should have a say in the sort of commitments, in the sort of compromise building that I am trying to strengthen at this moment. Later on will be a time for diplomatic negotiations and small groups and draftings and all of that, but you have to prepare the ground for that by trying to have this sort of wider conversation.

Another thing that will be new is a strong emphasis on reaching out, going out in the field. Meeting only in the UN hub cities of Vienna, New York, and Geneva give us a limited perspective of things. When we talk about proliferation or disarmament or how we use nuclear science technology or energy, it’s very different to have this discussion in North Africa or in Southeast Asia or in Central America than to have it here in New York. When you leave those hubs, everything changes, perspectives change, opinions change.

We are planning to have at least two conferences in Asia, three in Africa, at least two in Latin America, and maybe one or two for the Middle East, on top of the traditional meetings. This will be a very extensive exercise of preparation and consultation, which is badly needed.

Yet another new thing that I’m going to have is a cross-regional presence. When we go to Asia, I will have Africans and Europeans or Latin Americans coming as well, and vice versa. By showcasing lessons learned and successful partnerships, I want to demonstrate examples of things that can reinforce nonproliferation or show how things can be done in a way that is nonproliferation friendly.

ACT: How would you define a successful review conference? Is the ultimate goal to reach agreement on a final statement and an agreement on a forward-looking plan, or are there other possible outcomes, for example a high-level segment statement?1

Grossi: Apart from my personal preferences aSwedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom announced at the preparatory committee that Sweden will host a June 11 ministerial meeting to discuss moving toward nuclear disarmament with a stepping-stone approach. (Photo: Jussi Nukari/AFP/Getty Images)nd inclinations, we have a mandate to conduct a full review, and this is what I’m going to do. I’m aware of viewpoints and analyses, some of them very interesting, that suggest that it would be better for me to try to cut corners and save ourselves the aggravation of discussions that some consider pointless by trying to go straight for a minimalistic sort of outcome: We agree to disagree, then go home.

I disagree completely with this. This is not the mandate; the mandate is different. What one has to strive for is to have a full review and an agreed document. This is what this is all about: agreement. That being said, the dynamic of a diplomatic negotiation may take you in directions that may be different, and I would never exclude those possibilities.

There is the example of the 1995 review and extension conference, where a set of important decisions were taken.2 Frankly speaking, few know that there was no final document. People didn’t care in the end because the weight of these decisions was so great and the significance for the treaty and the package of decisions arrived at as a whole was so important. In the end, there was very little time to finalize a final document, and no one was shedding a tear about it.

So, the aim is to have a full review but, of course, with the disposition to explore possibilities that may lend themselves to good agreement among states.

You mentioned a high-level segment. Let me say that I don’t believe in segments for this type of conference. This is more appropriate for other types of conferences, like ones that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been conducting on nuclear applications or nuclear security.

In this case, the presence and support of high-level leaders, heads of state, for example, is what you need. If you talk about a segment, you are bureaucratizing something that I don’t think is appropriate in the case of the 50th anniversary of the NPT. Starting with the P5 and others, I have begun asking them to try and persuade their political authorities at the highest possible level to come to the review conference and use their presence to show the importance they all attach to the NPT. We need the visibility brought by the presence of those who believe that this treaty is not something of the past, that this treaty is not an obsolete thing, but rather something that is worth sustaining and protecting.

When asked how I define success, normally I say that I don’t like the question. I don’t like this exercise because it presupposes a defeatist state of mind. It’s like I’m going to play tennis with Roger Federer and I ask, How do we define success? Maybe if I get a point against him, I can consider this a win? No, I think it shows a defensive attitude that presupposes success is going to be almost impossible. Some might say, for example, that if we agree to disagree, but we’re civil, we don’t throw rotten tomatoes at each other, that can be success. No.

A successful outcome is something that might be difficult to define, but when you see it, you will recognize it. You will know that it is something that has strengthened the treaty as opposed to questioning it, challenging it, or diminishing it. That’s success for me.

ACT: If the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is terminated as expected and the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is not extended or replaced before the review conference, do you expect that states will accuse the United States and Russia of noncompliance with their NPT-related disarmament commitments?

Grossi: With issues of state policy, we need to be careful about making assumptions of things that may or may not be there in 11 months. I think that some of these processes are quite open, initiatives are being mentioned in this area, and final policy decisions have not been made in some of them. To me, to pass judgment at this point is not a good idea because what we are going to be able to say will be a function of a circumstance and the circumstance may be different a year from now.

ACT: Do you see the deteriorating situation around the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), threatening to hijack other business at the review conference? How might states-parties respond to the possibility that Iran could pull out of the JCPOA and even
the NPT?

Grossi: That would have a huge impact, of course. The so-called regional, or nonproliferation, cases or crises, however we wish to describe them, always influence discussions a lot. But it is too soon to assess them, again because situations can change. In 2016, for example, you would have had a very good or a relatively optimistic atmosphere on the JCPOA and a pessimistic one on North Korea perhaps. Now how do you see it? It’s different, isn’t it? In 2018, it would have been less positive with the JCPOA, better with North Korea. Now, it’s a bit uncertain with North Korea, but still with some hope, and the JCPOA seems to be suddenly deteriorating. In just two-and-a-half years, it’s been a bit kaleidoscopic the way in which each of these individual, singular situations have presented themselves in front of our eyes. So to start speculating about these things is to me a bit pointless, but we will, of course, be monitoring each and every one of those. They will very much be part of the debates.

ACT: How can you move forward the difficult debate on the zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, which has been a goal that NPT state-parties committed to try to advance beginning with the outcome of the 1995 review and extension conference? What are the main issues that need to be settled, and who needs to be involved in sorting them out?

Grossi: There are some new elements here, the first being the UN General Assembly decision to have a conference on the Middle East, which will take place November 18–22 here in New York.3 I have started consultations with the Arab Group and also with the presidency of that conference to indicate my disposition to listen and to prepare to establish the appropriate relationship between the November meeting and the NPT review conference. Some will believe there is no relation, others will pretend there must be a cause-and-effect relationship between them. What is clear, though, is that an ongoing, specific process does not mean the NPT review conference’s involvement has disappeared. On the contrary, just because you have another, specific process does not mean that we can say we have been unburdened from this responsibility. This is going to be a mutually reinforcing or otherwise process.

In terms of who participates, there is an internationally established definition of what countries are in the Middle East that comes from a listing agreed in Vienna, which includes a number of countries including Israel and Iran. It will be up to those organizing this conference to issue the invitations—I don’t think this has been done yet—and also the P5, of course, and agencies including the IAEA, probably the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials, maybe the European Atomic Energy Community. This would be the first ring, I suppose, of participants in that exercise, but of course it is the sovereign decision of those who are organizing
this effort.

ACT: How will you work to bridge divides on disarmament progress while still achieving a meaningful outcome?

Grossi: The first, perhaps more obvious role that I can see for the president of the NPT review conference is to remind everyone that there are expectations and obligations when it comes to disarmament. Again, to cite my example of success, you cannot have success without appropriate visions and decisions on disarmament. So, my role perhaps is to be a constant reminder to the powers that be that the mix indeed requires tangible, credible elements when it comes to disarmament. We do have a number of those described at previous conferences and other gatherings and meetings that may form the basis for that.

As I said in the beginning, the review is the result of circumstance. The review is not the treaty. What we need to have is the ability to extract from certain countries the willingness to do certain things.

I don’t intend to conduct a review of past reviews, even though there is always the temptation to do that. I don’t want to have an accountant’s approach to the review. We need to discuss these issues, but many of those commitments may have changed or might even require certain alterations when you look at the technical parts that are included. I would not like to tackle this review with a document in one hand and looking at countries A, B, and C and telling them, “Fifth line, you haven’t…; sixth line, you haven’t…; seventh line, you are ok.” That’s an accountant’s approach, and that’s not what we are required to do.

Of course, we will keep everything in mind, nothing is forgotten, nothing is hidden under the table, but the discussion must be efficient. The accountant may be right, but if you have the wrong conversation, you are wrong in the end.

ACT: There are some new disarmament-related proposals in the NPT context, including the new U.S. initiative titled “Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament.”4 Do you see NPT states-parties agreeing with the premise of this initiative? How will you take this into account in your consultations leading up to the review conference?

Grossi: I welcome this initiative. Everyone should welcome any initiative that has the objective of nuclear disarmament as a goal. I’ve seen the introductory notes and documents on the U.S. initiative, but I understand it is still a work in progress and the United States intends to have a process where working groups will be set up and a systematic discussion will take place.

I welcome that, much as I welcome any other disarmament-oriented initiative in the run-up to the conference. These are all elements that are bringing material that we can use. This is the clay that we are going to be using in 2020 to shape the consensus that we are going to strive for. To take an a priori approach to a particular initiative would be wrong.

ACT: The United States has apparently sent out a hold-the-date note for an early July meeting of the working group on the U.S. initiative to be held in Washington. There’s also a June 11 convocation of foreign ministers that Sweden has organized,5 so how do these fit into your overall game plan?

Grossi: My understanding is that the Swedish initiative is more oriented toward demonstrating high-level political support for disarmament. I see these as potentially complementary initiatives. As I understand it, the process on the U.S. initiative is meant to be a holistic discussion aimed at nuclear disarmament, whereas the Swedish initiative intends to look at ways in which high-level political support can be garnered and shored up with the 2020 review conference.

ACT: Another disarmament issue that will likely come up at the review conference is the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)6. How will you seek to reconcile the views of states that believe the TPNW reinforces the NPT with those that say it creates a norm that is contrary to the NPT?

Grossi: There won’t be unanimity, and this is something we need to be very clear on. The NPT is a family of 190 countries, so such an impressive membership tells you immediately that it will be impossible to have a unanimous view on the TPNW approach. The TPNW is a very interesting new element in the disarmament landscape. It embodies a humanitarian approach, but many countries that have subscribed to this approach have not subscribed to the TPNW. To make these amalgamations is an exercise I would caution against. The humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, or any weapons of mass destruction for that matter, is very important, but try to channel that into one or the other instrument is something that is going to be nonconducive to progress because we will clash with hard national interests and the whole purpose of something as noble as the humanitarian awareness may be lost.

All these elements are an array of instruments, principles, and ideas that we will have to put together in the mixer and see what we can take out of them. To try and impose on a multipolar community a specific channel is not the best. I wouldn’t say it’s wrong, it’s just not the best approach.

It’s pointless to engage in a discussion whether there is complementarity between two instruments. Those who have subscribed to the norm, of course they will say that there is complementarity, otherwise they would not have done this. For others is the complete opposite. Other countries may be waiting, others may be assessing. My country is assessing, for example. Others have assessed already and have come to an opinion about it. But to try to corral countries is not conducive. This is about the NPT, and we need to care for it.

ACT: How can civil society contribute to a successful 2020 review conference?

Grossi: I’m very keen on having a number of discussions that are necessary with something like the NPT. One is, of course, with civil society. I had a first meeting with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) yesterday here in New York, and I intend to continue in that. There are lots of good ideas there. I am also hoping to have a better format for NGO interaction with delegations come 2020.

There is also the gender discussion, which is very close to my heart. There is a vast area there where improvements can be made, can be done, resulting in better diplomatic results. I think it is proven that an improved, balanced representation in delegations leads to better processes and better outcomes as well. It’s not only a matter of human justice, but also efficiency in the way we do business. We must include youth groups as well, and I am considering this. A good example already exists with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Youth Group; new generations are of the essence. At the end of the day, we do this for them, we want a better world for them.

 

ENDNOTES

1. Some diplomatic meetings have featured short portions in which high-level national representatives, typically ministers or heads
of state, address the participants and then depart to allow working-level officials to conduct the meeting.

2. Participants of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference agreed to extend the treaty indefinitely and to a strengthened review process and a series of forward-looking principles and objectives on nonproliferation and disarmament.

3. In 2018, the UN General Assembly First Committee adopted a resolution introduced by Egypt on behalf of the Arab League for the UN secretary-general to convene a conference on taking forward a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East in 2019 and every year thereafter until a zone is achieved. Israel, Micronesia, and the United States voted against the resolution, and 71 countries abstained.

4. At the 2019 preparatory committee meeting, the United States described the initiative as “a new dialogue exploring ways to ameliorate conditions in the security environment that impede progress toward a future safely and sustainably free of nuclear weapons.” See Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, "Creating the Conditions for Nuclear Disarmament (CCND): Working Paper Submitted by the United States of America," NPT/CONF.2020/PC.II/WP.30, April 18, 2018; Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, "Operationalizing the Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament (CEND) Initiative: Working Paper Submitted by the United States of America," NPT/CONF.2020/PC.III/WP.43, April 26, 2019.

5. Swedish Foreign Minister Margo Wallstrom announced the meeting to the preparatory committee on April 30, 2019. “Speech by Margot Wallström at the NPT Preparatory Committee in New York,” April 30, 2019, https://www.government.se/speeches/20192/05/speech-by-margot-wallstrom-at-the-npt-the-preparatory-committee-in-new-york/.

6. Opened for signature in September 2017, the TPNW bans the use, threat of use, development, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession, stockpiling, transfer, stationing, or installation of nuclear weapons. Its supporters argue that it reinforces states' commitments to the NPT and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. To date, the treaty has been signed by 70 nations, ratified by 23, and needs 50 ratifications to enter into force.

Arms Control Today interviews Argentine diplomat Rafael Mariano Grossi to learn his plans to prepare for the 2020 NPT Review Conference.

Iran Threatens to Breach Nuclear Deal


June 2019
By Kelsey Davenport

Iran will no longer adhere to certain limits of the 2015 agreement that restricts its nuclear activities, the government announced on May 8, threatening to breach other restrictions if the states party to the agreement do not deliver the deal’s envisioned economic benefits.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, shown here at a February meeting in Russia, announced May 8 that Iran would no longer be bound by certain limits under the 2015 nuclear deal. (Photo: Sergei Chirikov/AFP/Getty Images)The announcement came exactly one year after the United States withdrew from the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and began to reimpose sanctions that were lifted as part of the agreement. Over the past year, U.S. President Donald Trump and other administration officials have escalated their use of bellicose language as they implement their strategy of “maximum pressure” on Iran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani described Iran’s proposed steps as a reduction in compliance with the deal and emphasized that Tehran is not withdrawing from the JCPOA. He said Iran made this decision because it has received little economic benefit under the deal despite its continued compliance. Rouhani said Iran has no interest in waging war but “will not give in to bullying.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the announcement as ambiguous and said the United States will “have to wait to see what Iran’s actions actually are” before responding. A State Department press release on May 8 called the decision “a blatant attempt to hold the world hostage” and said Washington would build on its pressure campaign.

The remaining five parties to the deal (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) urged Iran to continue complying with the agreement, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov blamed the “irresponsible behavior” of the United States for creating an “unacceptable situation.”

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign ministers of the three European countries party to the deal rejected “any ultimatums” from Iran and said they would continue to assess Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA based on whether the country is meeting its nuclear commitments. The statement did not indicate what actions the European Union and the three European states might take if Iran does breach the deal.

Iran’s announcement by the Supreme National Security Council said Tehran would begin to store more heavy water and low-enriched uranium (LEU) than the nuclear deal allows. Specifically, the JCPOA permits Iran to stockpile no more than 130 metric tons of heavy water and 300 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride gas enriched to 3.67-percent uranium-235.

Any breach of the JCPOA limits would violate the deal, but the initial steps Iran announced do not pose an immediate proliferation risk. Heavy water is used to moderate certain types of reactors that can produce plutonium for nuclear weapons, and Iran is far from completing such a reactor.

If Iran exceeds the stockpile limit on LEU, it would reduce the time needed for Tehran to produce enough fissile material for one nuclear weapon, known as the breakout time, but the 3.67-percent enrichment level is significantly below the 90-percent level considered to be weapons grade. Iran’s current breakout time is estimated at about 12 months. Prior to the JCPOA, it was two to three months.

Iran’s May 8 statement noted that “once our demands are met, we will resume implementation” of the JCPOA.

Tehran attributed its decision to the systematic campaign by the United States to deny Iran sanctions relief provided by the deal. Most recently, the Trump administration announced on April 22 that it would no longer grant waivers permitting states to buy limited amounts of oil from Iran, cutting off Iran’s largest export commodity and a key source of currency.

Following that decision, on May 3, the United States announced it would end several waivers for nuclear cooperation activities, including provisions that allowed Iran to store excess heavy water overseas and ship out enriched uranium. Waivers for several other nuclear cooperation projects were granted and will proceed for now.

Rouhani implied that the U.S. decision to target the sale or storage of enriched uranium and heavy water was forcing Iran into breaching the limits. Although the JCPOA allows for Iran to sell excess heavy water and enriched uranium, the country has other options for staying below the caps set by the JCPOA.

The additional steps that Iran threatened, which would begin 60 days after the May 8 announcement if the remaining JCPOA parties are not able to facilitate further oil sales or establish banking relations, pose a more significant proliferation risk. Those steps include restarting work on Iran’s heavy-water reactor and enriching uranium to 20-percent uranium-235.

Uranium enriched to 20 percent is still far below what is considered to be weapons grade, but significantly less work would be required to enrich that material to the 90-percent level than is needed to enrich uranium from 3.67 percent to 20 percent, further shortening Iran’s breakout time.

Restarting construction on the unfinished heavy-water reactor at Arak would not pose a short-term risk, as the reactor is years away from operating, but would still create concerns because the facility’s original design was capable of producing enough plutonium for approximately two nuclear weapons every year.

The nuclear deal required Iran to modify the reactor to produce much less plutonium annually, to refrain from separating any plutonium from the reactor’s spent fuel, and to ship out all spent fuel for 15 years. If Iran begins construction based on the modified design, it poses far less of a proliferation risk.

The remaining JCPOA parties have tried to preserve the economic benefits envisioned by the agreement, but efforts have been slow. Despite EU efforts to block the implementation of U.S. sanctions on European companies, the threat of U.S. sanctions and the risk of penalties has pushed most entities out of Iran. It is unclear if the EU, China, and Russia will be able to meet Iran’s demands.

The EU and Iran have set up a dedicated financial channel to facilitate transactions that are not subject to U.S. sanctions. When Mogherini first announced that such a mechanism would be created, she said it may be used to facilitate oil sales, but now European officials have stated that it will be limited to humanitarian trade. Although the mechanism has been set up, it is not yet functioning and is unlikely to be expanded to include oil trade within Iran’s 60-day timeline.

China appears to be the only state willing to risk U.S. sanctions by continuing to purchase oil from Iran. Beijing has been Iran’s largest oil customer, and China received a waiver from the United States in November to continue purchases for 180 days. The waiver ended May 2 and was not renewed, but an oil tanker owned by a Chinese bank left an Iranian port with 2 million barrels of oil on May 17. It is unlikely that this single shipment will be enough for Iran to refrain from following through on its threat to breach certain JCPOA limits, but it may indicate a willingness by some states to continue purchasing oil from Tehran.

If Iran does follow through on its threat to violate the deal, it will likely further escalate tensions between the United States and Iran.

National Security Advisor John Bolton announced in a May 5 statement that the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force were being deployed to the U.S. Central Command region in response to a number of “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.” Bolton said the move will “send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

U.S. officials said Iranian-backed forces were behind May 12 attacks on oil tankers docked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, but offered little public evidence to support that assessment.

U.S. allies and members of Congress briefed on the intelligence have disagreed with Bolton’s characterization of it. British Army Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, who serves as deputy commander of coalition forces fighting the Islamic State, said on May 15 there is no increase in the threat from Iran.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said on May 21 that intelligence presented does not indicate that Iran is “taking unprovoked and offensive measures” against the United States and its allies.

Trump has repeatedly said that he does not want war with Iran, but tweeted on May 19 that “if Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.”

Rouhani responded to Trump’s May 20 rhetoric, saying that the “situation is not suitable for talks and our choice is resistance only,” and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that “economic terrorism and genocidal taunts won’t ‘end Iran.’”

One year after the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Tehran says it will not abide by some of the agreement’s limits.

NPT Meeting Looks to 2020 Review Conference


June 2019
By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

Despite some procedural successes, the final preparatory meeting before the 2020 review conference for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) foreshadowed difficult times ahead. The 2019 NPT Preparatory Committee ended its session May 10 after two weeks of debate that prevented participants from reaching consensus on recommendations for the treaty’s 10th review conference next year, the 50th anniversary of the pact’s entry into force.

Syed Hussin of Malaysia speaks with reporters on May 10 at the close of the third preparatory meeting for the 2020 NPT Review Conference. (Photo: United Nations)The debate highlighted the nonproliferation crisis in Iran, which announced midway through the meeting that it would cease to abide by some of the restrictions imposed by the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Iran’s announcement came one year after the United States withdrew from the deal and after recent U.S. moves to reimpose sanctions waived by the deal and to levy additional punitive measures. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that Iran could take retaliatory measures in 60 days should the remaining five parties to the JCPOA fail to thwart U.S. sanctions on Tehran’s oil and banking transactions.

The dispute between the two countries bled into the conference room, where Iran and the United States engaged in bitter “right of reply” exchanges and Iran made veiled threats in response to the U.S. pressure campaign.

The United States “continues to exert maximum pressure to dismantle the JCPOA and [UN Security Council] Resolution 2231,” said Iran’s opening statement, referring to the council decision to endorse the nuclear deal. “These pressures, if continued, will be detrimental not only to the stability and security in the Middle East region, but to the NPT. ... Such policies will not be left unanswered and Iran will adopt appropriate measures to preserve its supreme national interests.”

Should Iran decide to withdraw fully from the JCPOA or even from the NPT itself as some Iranian press reports in early May suggested Iran was considering, the 2020 review conference will face another nonproliferation crisis.

North Korea’s nuclear program took a backseat to the woes of the JCPOA at the preparatory committee meeting, although many states, including in a joint statement delivered by France on behalf of 70 states, urged North Korea to turn its words committing to denuclearization into action and rejoin the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state.

The pace of progress toward nuclear disarmament by the NPT’s recognized nuclear-weapon states concerned a majority of states, dozens of which called on Russia and the United States to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty before it expires in 2021.

States also remained split on how to advance the creation of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and on attending a November UN conference in New York on the topic. The United States declared it would not participate in that meeting, Russia encouraged all nuclear-weapon states to take part, and the United Kingdom stated it was still deliberating whether to attend.

These numerous fault lines led to the preparatory committee meeting’s failure to adopt recommendations for next year’s review conference. Consensus on the recommendations drafted by meeting chair Syed Hussin of Malaysia was doomed after several nuclear-weapon states and some of their allies objected to language sought by a majority of NPT states-parties. The draft recommendations were issued instead as a working paper submitted by Hussin, who also issued an eight-paragraph reflection on the meeting.

The meeting was more successful in clearing several procedural hurdles. It adopted an agenda for the 2020 review conference and agreed that Argentine diplomat Rafael Mariano Grossi will serve as president of next year’s meeting pending his formal nomination in the last quarter of 2019. Grossi’s selection as president has been delayed by Venezuela, which chairs the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which recommends the next president. But Venezuela will relinquish the NAM chair later this year, opening the door for Grossi’s selection.

Grossi took the decision as an immediate authorization, and he told the preparatory committee at the final session of the meeting that he would begin his work the next business day by launching extensive consultations with diplomats and other relevant actors in every region.

 

U.S. Swedish Proposals Address Nuclear Disarmament

As many states lamented the lack of progress on nuclear-weapon states’ disarmament commitments at the 2019 preparatory committee for the 2020 review conference for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the United States and Sweden advanced two proposals to discuss disarmament.

The first proposal is a U.S. initiative titled “Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament” (CEND). It was first introduced as “Creating the Conditions for Nuclear Disarmament” in a working paper to the 2018 preparatory committee, but the name was changed after Washington heard concerns about the word “conditions,” Andrea Thompson, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told a Washington conference in March.

That paper contends that the international security environment is not conducive for further progress on disarmament and states that a number of conditions would need to be met “to facilitate the pursuit of a world free of nuclear weapons,” including the denuclearization of North Korea, Iran’s verified compliance with its nonproliferation commitments, the recognition of Israel’s right to exist, and compliance by all states with all international agreements.

The concept has since evolved, according to more recent remarks by Christopher Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, to a UK conference last December and to the Conference on Disarmament in March. The Netherlands also hosted an academic colloquium to further consider the idea in April.

Ford announced last December that the United States would create a working group and subgroups to discuss the topic, consisting of representatives from 25 to 30 regionally and politically diverse states. At the 2019 preparatory committee, Ford reported that the United States will host the first plenary meeting for the working group in Washington in July. Following their creation at the plenary, the subgroups would meet periodically and report to the 2020 review conference on their progress.

Reactions to the CEND approach at the preparatory committee were mixed. Some states, including Japan and the United Kingdom, expressed support for the approach explicitly, and the South Korea said it would attend the working group plenary meeting.

Iran rejected the approach, and other nations warned against adding conditions to implement NPT commitments, claiming that progress on disarmament is necessitated, not impeded, by a difficult security environment.

“We reject the notion that nuclear disarmament is preconditioned on a certain set of circumstances,” the Philippines argued. “This endeavor is a matter of collective responsibility, particularly between and among the nuclear-weapon states, and it must not be made conditional on the interests of a few.”

The second proposal came from Sweden, which introduced an initiative to build support around key disarmament “stepping stones” in a working paper to the preparatory committee. The goal of the approach is to find “common ground” steps on “concrete progress,” Sweden told the meeting.

The working paper recommends that the 2020 review conference agree on a document that reaffirms the NPT as the cornerstone for nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, the validity of previous NPT commitments, the expression that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” an improved NPT process, and realistic measures for disarmament based on a “stepping stone” approach that could reduce the salience of nuclear weapons, rebuild habits of cooperation, reduce nuclear risks, and enhance transparency.

Sweden will host a ministerial-level meeting on June 11 on mobilizing political support for an “ambitious yet realistic agenda.” New Zealand voiced its support for the Swedish approach, stating that it applies “pragmatism to the process for implementation of the established disarmament agenda.”—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

The final preparatory meeting for the 2020 NPT Review Conference made administrative progress while foreshadowing difficult discussions next year.

Trump’s Failing Iran Policy


June 2019
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

One year after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the multilateral 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, the deal is in deep trouble. Known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the deal has successfully rolled back Iran’s nuclear capabilities and put its activities under tighter monitoring, easing international concerns about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

President Donald Trump signs a document reinstating sanctions against Iran after announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear deal, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 8, 2018. (Photo credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)Not surprisingly, Trump’s ill-conceived “maximum pressure” campaign, which involves reimposing sanctions that were lifted when Iran met key JCPOA requirements, has done nothing to force changes in Iran’s regional behavior or push Iran into accepting new U.S. demands. Rather, the policy has sharply increased tensions in the Persian Gulf and decreased Iran’s incentives to continue compliance with the JCPOA.

In response to U.S. moves to further tighten sanctions earlier this spring, Iran announced on May 8 that it would no longer adhere to JCPOA limits on stockpiling heavy water and low-enriched uranium. Iran also gave the other parties to the agreement (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the European Union) 60 days to help it thwart U.S. sanctions on oil sales and banking transactions, or else it will take additional measures with more significant proliferation implications.

With its existing heavy-water production and uranium-enrichment capacities, Iran could soon breach some of these limits. Any violation of JCPOA restrictions is cause for concern, but Iran’s plan to exceed the agreement’s limits on storing more than 130 metric tons of heavy water and 300 kilograms of 3.67-percent enriched uranium-235 would not pose an immediate proliferation risk. By comparison, in June 2015 Iran had a stockpile of approximately 11,500 kilograms of LEU in all forms. It takes roughly 1,050 kilograms of LEU in gas form and enriched to weapons-grade to produce a significant quantity for one bomb.

A bigger problem would arise if Tehran resumes enriching uranium to 20-percent levels or restarts construction of the unfinished Arak heavy-water reactor. Although the reactor is years away from completion, it could provide enough plutonium for two nuclear weapons every year if the plant’s original blueprints are followed. More worrisome would be the resumption of enrichment to 20-percent levels, which would significantly decrease the time needed to acquire enough material for a bomb.

What is most tragic about the growing crisis is that Trump’s decision to violate U.S. commitments under the JCPOA appears to be based on a set of falsehoods and misconceptions that Trump and his senior officials continue to repeat.

In May 27 comments to reporters, Trump said, “I’m looking to have Iran say, ‘No nuclear weapons.’ If you look at the deal that [Vice President Joe] Biden and President [Barack] Obama signed, [Iran] would have access, free access, to nuclear weapons.”

Nonsense. Through the JCPOA, Iran reaffirmed its obligation never to pursue nuclear weapons and, more importantly, agreed to restrictions and a monitoring system that far exceed Tehran’s obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repeatedly confirmed that Iran is implementing the terms of the JCPOA.

The JCPOA’s limitations on Iran’s nuclear activities block Iran’s pathways to the bomb and prevent the nation from being able to amass enough bomb-grade nuclear material for one explosive device in less than one year. Moreover, any Iranian efforts to ramp up its fissile material production for weapons would be detected by the IAEA and national means of intelligence well in advance.

The JCPOA is not perfect, but it is a strong agreement that provides a solid basis for negotiating a follow-on agreement to extend key nuclear limits in ways that advance international security.

Instead, team Trump has chosen to reimpose sanctions to destroy Iran’s economy and, his pro-war national security advisor, John Bolton, hopes, the regime itself. But Trump’s strategy has failed to persuade anyone in Iran or any of the U.S. partners to the JCPOA that they come back to the table to negotiate a new, “better” deal.

Sadly, Trump does not seem to understand that his administration’s campaign to dismantle the most effective and durable barrier against an Iranian nuclear bomb—the JCPOA—only heightens the risk that Iran will leave the JCPOA and greatly expand its nuclear capacity.

The most responsible path forward in the face of the Trump administration’s gross violations of the nuclear deal is a more robust and effective effort by the JCPOA’s remaining parties to facilitate legitimate trade with Iran. It is also in Iran’s interests to exercise nuclear restraint, continue to cooperate with the IAEA, and refrain from taking further steps that increase the risk of conflict in the Middle East.

If the remaining parties can keep the JCPOA alive, then it may be possible for the next U.S. president to rejoin the JCPOA in 2021 and pursue a new round of talks on a follow-on agreement that addresses mutual issues of concern. If not, Trump may well have reignited a proliferation crisis in the volatile Middle East.

 

 

One year after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the multilateral 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, the deal is in deep trouble.

Timeline of Nuclear Diplomacy With Iran

July 2019

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

Updated: July 2019

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

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

 


Skip To: 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 20182019

 

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

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1970s

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

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

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

1980s

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

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

1990s

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

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

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

2002

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

2003

 

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

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

2004

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

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

2005

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

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

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

2006

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

2007

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

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

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

2008

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

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

2009

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

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

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

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

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

2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 13, 2015: Iran's parliament approves a detailed bill supporting the Iran deal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 15, 2017: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres issues the biannual report on the implementation of Resolution 2231. The report notes that the nuclear deal is being implemented but finds that Iran has violated the arms embargo provisions of Resolution 2231. The report also notes that the secretariat is continuing to investigate allegations that ballistic missiles launched at Saudi Arabia from Yemen were transferred by Iran to the Houthis in violation of 2231. Iran denies the claims.

2018

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

January 26, 2018: The UN panel of experts assessing implementation of sanctions on Yemen finds Iran in noncompliance with its obligations under the arms embargo established by Resolution 2216. The report notes that Iran did not take "necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer” of short-range ballistic missiles and other equipment. Iran disputes the report and argues that the evidence is fabricated.

February 22, 2018: The IAEA issues its first quarterly report for 2018 on Iran's implementation of the JCPOA. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano tells the agency's Board of Governors that the nuclear-related commitments are being implemented and that IAEA inspectors have had access to all locations they have needed to visit. As of Feb. 12, 2018, the quantity of Iran’s uranium enriched up to 3.67% U-235 was 109.5 kg. The report notes that Iran informed the agency of its intention to pursue naval nuclear propulsion in the future.

March 15, 2018: State Department Director of Policy Planning Brian Hook meets with representatives from the E3 (France, Germany, and the UK) in Berlin to continue discussions on the JCPOA and Trump's demand for a 'supplemental' agreement with the Europeans that addresses sunsets, ballistic missiles, and inspections.

March 16, 2018: The JCPOA Joint Commission meets to oversee implementation of the agreement.

March 19, 2018: EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council that the EU is not considering new sanctions on Iran's ballistic missile activities, amid reports that the E3 are developing such measures.

April 11, 2018: Political directors from the E3 (France, Germany, and the UK) and the United States meet in Washington, DC to continue talks on Trump's demand for a supplemental agreement that addresses sunsets, ballistic missiles, and inspections. 

April 11, 2018: China and Iran hold a seminar on civil nuclear cooperation under the JCPOA in Beijing. 

April 19, 2018: 500 British, French and German parliamentarians urge U.S. members of Congress to help "keep the JCPOA alive" in a letter.

April 24, 2018: U.S. President Trump hosts French President Emmanuel Macron for his first state visit. Macron reports having very frank discussions with Trump about the JCPOA and said that he and President Trump had agreed to work on a "new deal" that keeps the JCPOA, but incorporates additional measures, including on Iranian ballistic missiles.

May 8, 2018: President Trump announces that he is withdrawing the United States from the JCPOA and signs a presidential memorandum to institute the "highest level" of economic sanctions on Iran. In a statement, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin states that sanctions will be reimposed subject to certain 90 day and 180 day "wind-down periods." In an address following Trump's announcement Iranian President Rouhani announces that Iran will continue negotiations with the other states in the agreement in order to try to continue the deal without the United States. British Prime Minister May, German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron re-state their continued commitment to the deal and pledge to work with all parties to make sure its terms are upheld. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini states that the EU is committed to the JCPOA as long as Iran continues to implement its nuclear related commitments, as it has so far.

May 15, 2018: EU High Representative Federica Mogherini meets with the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, and the three European countries and Iran in two separate meetings to discuss future coordinated work following the U.S. violation of the JCPOA. They agree to "launch intensive expert discussions" to find practical solutions to the following issues in the next few weeks:

  • "Maintaining and deepening economic relations with Iran;
  • The continued sale of Iran's oil and gas condensate petroleum products and petrochemicals and related transfers;
  • Effective banking transactions with Iran;
  • Continued sea, land, air and rail transportation relations with Iran;
  • The further provision of export credit and development of special purpose vehicles in financial banking, insurance and trade areas, with the aim of facilitating economic and financial cooperation, including by offering practical support for trade and investment;
  • The further development and implementation of Memoranda of Understanding and contracts between European companies and Iranian counterparts;
  • Further investments in Iran;
  • The protection of European Union economic operators and ensuring legal certainty; 
  • And last but not least, the further development of a transparent, rules-based business environment in Iran."

May 17, 2018: The European Commission meets in Sofia and announces that it will pursue a "blocking statute" to ban European companies and courts from complying with U.S. sanctions against Iran.

May 21, 2018: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo presents the Trump administration's new strategy on Iran after the U.S. violation of the JCPOA in a speech at the Heritage Foundation, promising to "apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime" and work with allies to deter Iranian aggression. If the United States were to pursue a new deal, Pompeo lists 12 demands for Iran, including stopping enrichment, ending the proliferation of ballistic missiles and the development of nuclear-capable missile systems and allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency to have "unqualified access to all sites throughout the entire country." In exchange, the United States would be prepared to end "the principal components of every one of our sanctions against the regime," as well as re-establish full diplomatic and commercial relationships and allow Iran to have "advanced technology."

May 24, 2018: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports that Iran is implementing all nuclear related commitments under the JCPOA in a quarterly report. Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 3.67 percent uranium-235 is 123.9 kg, below the 300 kg limit set by the accord, according to the report. The report notes that Iran is implementing the Additional Protocol but that “timely and proactive cooperation by Iran in providing such access would facilitate implementation of the Additional Protocol and enhance confidence.”

June 6, 2018: Iran opens a new facility for centrifuge production, an act which does not violate the JCPOA. Reza Najafi, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, tells press June 6 that the decision to open the facility is the “preparatory works for a possible scenario” if the JCPOA fails and reiterated that Iran will not start “any activities contrary to the JCPOA” at this time.

The European Commission adopts an update of the Blocking Statute to include extraterritorial sanctions that the United States re-imposed on Iran and an update of the European Investment Bank (EIB)'s External Lending Mandate to make Iran eligible for investment activities by the EIB. "These measures are meant to help protecting the interests of EU companies investing in Iran and to demonstrate the EU's commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)," reads a European Commission press release

July 6, 2018: The JCPOA Joint Commission meets in Vienna and releases a statement on "the way forward to ensure the continued implementation of the JCPOA in all its aspects following the withdrawal of the United States from the deal." 

July 16, 2018: EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini confirms at a press conference that the United States refused a request by France, Germany, the UK and the EU to exempt entities doing legitimate business with Iran from U.S. sanctions penalties.

July 18, 2018: Iran's head of the Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, announces that Iran built a new factory to produce rotors for up to 60 IR-6 centrifuges a day. Salehi says building the facility does not violate the JCPOA.

July 26, 2018: Ten Republican Senators write a letter to the French, German, and British ambassadors to the United States urging compliance with the sanctions reimposed by Trump and warning against efforts to block or circumvent the measures. The letter says it would be "particularly troubling if you sought to evade or undermine American statutes" and doing so "could well prompt Congressional action." 

August 6, 2018: In a joint statement the EU, French, German, and British foreign ministers say they "deeply regret the re-imposition of sanctions by the US" and note that they are "determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran, in accordance with EU law and with UN Security Council resolution 2231." They reiterate that preserving the JCPOA is a "matter of respecting international agreements and a matter of international security." 

August 7, 2018: Certain sanctions measures reimposed by Trump May 8 come into full effect. The measures include restricting Iran's purchase of U.S. dollars, trade in gold, precious metals, aluminum, steel, coal, software, and transactions related to sovereign debt and the automotive sector. Licenses allowing certain foodstuffs to be exported to the United States and Iran to purchase commercial aircraft are also revoked. 

August 16, 2018: Secretary of State Pompeo announces the creation of the Iran Action Group, responsible for "directing, reviewing, and coordinating all aspects" of the State Department's Iran strategy and led by Brian Hook with the title Special Representative for Iran.

August 22, 2018: Iran says that the UK will help with the re-design of the Arak heavy water nuclear reactor to limit the amount of plutonium byproduct it produces, a task the United States had committed to under the JCPOA.

Sen. Cruz (R-Texas), along with 15 republican senators, sends a letter to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin urging him to take all necessary steps to ensure the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) disconnects the Central Bank of Iran and all other designated Iranian financial institutions.

August 23, 2018: The European Commission adopts an €18 million package for Iran, the first part of a larger €50 million package, including €8 million assistance to the private sector.

August 27-28: The International Court of Justice hears arguments from Iran and the United States on Tehran's allegation that the U.S. reimposition of sanctions violates the 1955 U.S.-Iranian Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations. The United States contends that the court does not have jurisdiction to hear the case.

September 12, 2018: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports that Iran is implementing all nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA in a quarterly report. Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 3.67 percent uranium-235 is 139.4 kg, below the 300 kg of UF6 limit set by the accord, according to the report. Iran's stock of heavy water is 122.9 metric tons, below the 130 metric ton limit. 

September 24, 2018: The foreign ministers of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini meet in New York to discuss the implementation of the JCPOA. The participants decide to establish a Special Purpose Vehicle "to facilitate payments related to Iran's export (including oil) and imports, which will assist and reassure economic operators pursuing legitimate business with Iran."

September 25, 2018: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the UN General Assembly in New York. "Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death, and destruction," he says, adding that many countries in the Middle East supported his decision to withdraw from the JCPOA and reimpose nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. "Additional sanctions will resume November 5th, and more will follow. And we’re working with countries that import Iranian crude oil to cut their purchases substantially.... We ask all nations to isolate Iran’s regime as long as its aggression continues. And we ask all nations to support Iran’s people as they struggle to reclaim their religious and righteous destiny."

On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, U.S. Speical Representative for Iran Brian Hook, and representatives from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, UAE and Israel attend the United Against Nuclear Iran summit. Pompeo unveiled a new report by the State Department's Iran Action Group which chronicles "Iran's destructive activities." In his remarks, Bolton warns "there will be hell to pay" if Iran doesn't change its behavior.

September 26, 2018: U.S. President Donald Trump chairs a summit-level UN Security Council meeting, officially about WMD non-proliferation, but which he tweeted would be about Iran. While Trump criticizes the JCPOA in the meeting, nearly every other leader in the council expresses support for the accord and encourages Iran to continue to comply.

September 27, 2018: In his address to the UN General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reveals what he describes as a secret nuclear warehouse “storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program.” Netanyahu also called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano to “do the right thing” and inspect the warehouse “immediately” before Iran finished clearing it out. He charged that Iran removed 15 kilograms of radioactive material from the warehouse in August, but did not specify if the material was uranium, plutonium, or another radioactive source. One intelligence official quoted in Reuters says that the facility has been known to the U.S. intelligence community for some time and it is full of documents, not nuclear equipment. The official says that “so far as anyone knows, there is nothing in it that would allow Iran to break out” of the nuclear deal any faster.

October 2, 2018: IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano says in a statement that the agency does not take any information at “face value.” While 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. Amano said the IAEA’s nuclear verification work “must always be impartial, factual, and professional” and that the agency’s independence is “of paramount importance.”

October 3, 2018: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) rules unanimously that the United States “must remove, by means of its choosing, any impediments” to the export of food, agricultural products, medicine, aircraft parts, and other humanitarian goods. The 15-member panel concludes that Trump’s decision to reimpose sanctions on Iran was unfounded given Tehran’s compliance with the JCPOA, but the court did not order the United States to remove all sanctions or compensate Iran for damages.

November 5, 2018: The second round of sanctions on Iran following Trump's withdrawal from the JCPOA, targeting Iran's banking, oil, shipping and ship-building sectors, come back into effect. In addition to redesignating entities removed from the SDN list under the JCPOA, United States designates an additional 300 new entities. The administration grants temporary waivers to China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey to continue importing Iranian oil at reduced levels, as well as waivers to allow nonproliferation projects at Arak, Bushehr and Fordow to continue.  

November 22, 2018: The International Atomic Energy Agency reports that Iran is implementing its nuclear-related committments. The IAEA's quarterly report finds that Iran's stockpile of heavy water is 122.8 metric tons, below the 130-ton limit and that Iran's stockpile of uranium enriched to 3.67 percent uranium-235 is 149.4 kilograms, below the 300-kilogram limit.

November 26-27, 2018: EU and Iranian officials meet in Brussels for the third High-Level Summit on International Nuclear Cooperation. The EU and Iran review past nuclear cooperation projects and discuss ongoing modifications of the Arak reactor and conversion of the Fordow facility to a research site.

December 12, 2018: The UN Security Council meets to discuss the biannual UN Secretary-General report on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231. The report welcomes Iran's implementation of its nuclear-related commitments "in the face of considerable challenges" from the U.S. withdrawal of the JCPOA. The report also notes Iranian activities that might violate the ballistic transfer provision in the resolution. At the meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces that the United States will work with other UN Security Council members to reimpose on Iran the ballistic missile restrictions outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 1929.

2019

January 15, 2019: Iran attempts to launch a satellite using its Simorgh launch vehicle, but the satellite fails to enter orbit. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo characterizes the launch as “continued defiance of the international community and UN Security Council Resolution 2231," although the launch does not violate the resolution.

January 29, 2019: The annual Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community assesses that "Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device." It adds that "Iran’s continued implementation of the JCPOA has extended the amount of time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about one year."

January 30, 2019: IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano reiterates that Iran is implementing its nuclear-related obligations under the JCPOA and states that attempts to "micro-manage or put pressure on the agency in nuclear verification" are "counter-productive and extremely harmful" in remarks to the IAEA staff.  Although Amano doesn't name who was putting pressure on the agency, he is likely referencing Israeli and U.S. efforts to persuade the IAEA to investigate what they deem a "secret atomic warehouse" in Iran, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described in his September UN General Assembly speech.

January 31, 2019: Germany, France and the United Kingdom establish a "special purpose vehicle" to facilitate transactions for non-sanctioned trade with Iran, called the "Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges" (INSTEX).

February 13-14, 2019: The United States and Poland host a ministerial summit on the Middle East in Warsaw where U.S. Vice President Mike Pence explicitly calls on “our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.” Several European foreign ministers boycott the summit.

March 6, 2019: The International Atomic Energy Agency reports that Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments. The IAEA's quarterly report finds that Iran's stockpile of heavy water is 124.8 metric tons, below the 130-ton limit and that Iran's stockpile of uranium enriched to 3.67 percent uranium-235 is 163.8 kilograms, below the 300-kilogram limit.

The JCPOA Joint Commission also meets in Vienna March 6 and all parties reiterate their commitment to the full implementation of the JCPOA.

March 19, 2019: Iran announces that it registered its counterpart to the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX).

March 22, 2019: The U.S. Treasury Department designates 31 Iranian entities and individuals for past involvement in Iran’s nuclear weapons program under an executive order targeting the proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.

April 8, 2019: The United States designates the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

April 9, 2019: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announces that Iran will install a cascade of 20 IR-6 centrifuges at Natanz.

April 22, 2019: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces that the United States will not issue any additional sanctions waivers for states to continue importing Iranian oil on May 2. 

May 3, 2019: The United States announces that it will extend waivers to allow certain nuclear cooperation projects in Iran to proceed, but end others. The United States extends waivers for the Arak reactor conversion, the Fordow facility conversion, the Bushehr nuclear reactor and the Tehran research reactor for 90 days, but ends waivers for the transfer of enriched uranium out of Iran, the transfer and storage of heavy water outside of Iran and the construction of additional reactor units at Bushehr.

May 5, 2019: U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton announces that the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force are being deployed to the U.S. Central Command region to "send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.” Some news outlets report that officials in the intelligence community claim Bolton is exaggerating the threat posed by Iran.

May 8, 2019: Iran announces that it will no longer be bound by stockpiles limitations on enriched uranium and heavy water reserves in the JCPOA and could restart construction on its unfinished heavy water reactor at Arak and resume higher level enrichment in the future if the other parties to the agreement do not deliver on sanctions relief. In late April, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told state broadcaster IRIB that Iran was considering leaving the NPT as one of Iran's numerous choices.

The United States also announces new sanctions targeting Iran's industrial metal exports. 

May 9, 2019: EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the French, German and UK foreign ministers urge Iran to continue to meet its commitments under the JCPOA and reject "any ultimatums" in a joint statement. The leaders also urge countries not party to the JCPOA "to refrain from taking any actions that impede the remaining parties' ability to fully perform their commitments."

May 20, 2019: Iran announces it will quadruple uranium enrichment output at Natanz and says it will soon surpass the 300 kilogram limit on uranium gas enriched to 3.67 percent set by the deal. 

June 3, 2019: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States is willing to engage with Iran with no preconditions. 

June 6, 2019: Russian President Vladimir Putin says there has not been "a single violation" of the JCPOA by Iran. 

June 10, 2019: IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano tells the agency's Board of Governors that he is "worried about increasing tensions over the Iranian nuclear issue." He says the JCPOA represents a "significant gain for nuclear verification" and says full implementation is essential. The IAEA's report on Iran's implementation of the deal finds that Iran's stockpile of heavy water was 125 metric tons, below the 130 ton limit, and that the low-enriched uranium stockpile was 174 kilograms, below the 202 kilogram limit (which is equivalent to 300 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride gas). The report notes that Iran has installed 33 IR-6 advanced centrifuges and says there are technical discussions over the IR-6 ongoing. The report notes that inspectors have had access to all sites and locations they have requested to visit. 

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas travels to Tehran and says Germany will not accept a "less-for-less" agreement on implementation of the JCPOA. An INSTEX delegation travels with Maas to discuss efforts process transactions using the channel. 

June 11, 2019: U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA Jackie Wolcott says that Iran is "reported to be in clear violation of the deal," citing the number of IR-6 centrifuges installed. 

June 12-13, 2019: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits Tehran and delivers a message from U.S. President Donald Trump to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Khamenei says Trump is "not deserving to exchange messages with" and says he will not send a response. Khamenei says that there is no sense in negotiating with the United States after Trump has "thrown away everything that was agreed upon." 

June 13, 2019: The United States accuses Iran of attacking two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran denies that it is behind the attack. 

June 17, 2019: Iran announces it will breach the 300 kilogram limit on uranium gas enriched to 3.67 percent within 10 days. 

June 20, 2019: Iran shoots down a U.S. surveillance drone. Iran claims the drone was in Iranian airspace. The United States says the drone was in international airspace. 

June 24, 2019: The United States sanctions the Supreme Leader of Iran and his office. 

June 26, 2019: The UN Secretary General's office briefs the UN Security Council on his biannual report assessing the implementation of Resolution 2231. The report expresses regret for the U.S. decision not to renew waivers on nuclear nonproliferation projects and says U.S. actions are "contrary to the goals" of the nuclear deal. The report also expresses regret over Iran's May 8 announcement that Tehran will no longer be bound by the deal's limits on heavy water and low-enriched uranium. The report notes that the Secretary General's office investigated several interdicted shipments of conventional arms and missiles, as well as missile debris, and determined that in several cases that components originated in Iran, but was unable to determine if the transfers took place before or after Resolution 2231 came into effect in January 2016. 

June 28, 2019: The JCPOA's Joint Commission meets in Vienna. The chair's statement says that INSTEX transactions are being processed and that there has been positive progress on the conversion of the Arak and Fordow facilities. The statement says that experts will looking to solutions for Iran to transfer heavy water and low-enriched uranium out of Iran now that the United States is sanctioning those actions. 

Seven European states issue a statement reiterating their support for the JCPOA and their intention to participate in INSTEX. 

July 1, 2019: Iran announces that it breached the 300 kilogram limit on uranium gas enriched to 3.67 percent (202 kilograms of uranium by weight). The IAEA confirms that Iran has exceeded the limit. The White House issues a statement saying that "maximum pressure on the Iranian regime will continue until its leaders alter their course of action" and that the United States "must restore the longstanding nonproliferation standard of no enrichment for Iran." 

July 2, 2019: The Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom and the EU High Representative issue a statement expressing regret for Iran's decision to breach the limit on low-enriched uranium. The ministers state that "we have been consistent and clear that our commitment to the nuclear deal depends on full compliance by Iran" and state that they are "urgently considering next steps under the terms of the JCPOA." 

 

Updated by Alicia Sanders-Zakre

Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

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Reporting on the 2019 NPT PrepCom

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The INF Treaty and New START Crisis and the Future of the NPT

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The INF Treaty and New START Crisis and the Future of the NPT

Statement of NGO Representatives and Experts
to the 2019 NPT Prep Com for the 2020 Review Conference,
United Nations, New York

May 1, 2019

Since the NPT was signed 50 years ago, the United States and Russia have engaged in nuclear arms control negotiations and concluded strategic arms control and reduction treaties that have lowered tensions, reduced excess nuclear stockpiles, increased predictability and transparency, and helped to reduce the nuclear danger.

While the size of the U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles has been significantly reduced from their Cold War peaks, the dangers posed by the still excessive U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals and launch-under-attack postures are still exceedingly high.

Today, each side can launch as many as 800 thermonuclear weapons in a first strike within about 20 minutes of the “go” order from either president. Each side would have hundreds more nuclear weapons available in reserve for further counterstrikes. The result would be a global catastrophe.

As then-presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev noted in their 1985 summit statement: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

Further progress on nuclear disarmament – or in the very least active negotiations to that end – by the United States and Russia is at the core of their NPT Article VI obligation to "pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control."

Disarmament leadership from the United States and Russia, which possess the vast majority of the world’s nuclear firepower, is also critical to the essential task of engaging the world’s other nuclear-armed states in the global enterprise to achieve a world without nuclear weapons.

As we approach the NPT’s 2020 Review Conference, it is the considered view of a wide range of nongovernmental experts and organizations that the world’s two largest nuclear-armed states need to:

  • engage in serious talks to facilitate the extension of New START by five years, as allowed for in Article XIV of the Treaty;
  • reach an agreement that prevents deployments of destabilizing ground-based, intermediate-range missiles; and
  • resume regular, high-level talks on strategic stability to reduce the risk of miscalculation.

Failure by the U.S. and Russian leadership to take these steps would represent a violation of their NPT Article VI obligations and would threaten the very underpinnings of the NPT regime.

Unfortunately, relations between Washington and Moscow are at their lowest point since the mid-1980s, and their dialogue on nuclear arms control has been stalled since Russia rejected a 2013 offer from President Obama to negotiate further nuclear cuts beyond the modest reductions mandated by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Worse still, the two sides have not resumed their strategic stability talks since the last session was held in Helsinki in late-2017, and the future of two of the most important nuclear arms control agreements – the INF Treaty and New START – are in grave doubt.

The INF Treaty

In February, Washington and Moscow suspended their obligations under the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty after failing to resolve their compliance dispute. Barring a diplomatic miracle, the United States is on course to withdraw from the treaty on August 2. The collapse of the INF Treaty opens the door to new and even more dangerous forms of missile competition.

Russia may deploy more of its 9M729 ground-launched cruise missiles, which the United States and NATO have determined are treaty noncompliant, and Russia has threatened to convert a sea-based cruise missile system for ground launch. For its part, the Trump administration has begun developing new, “more usable” low-yield nuclear warheads for use on D-5 submarine-launched strategic missiles, and the administration has announced that it will begin testing – before the end of this year – new ground-launched intermediate-range cruise missiles, which have been prohibited by the INF Treaty. Ukraine, a party to the INF Treaty, has suggested it might pursue INF missile development.

Whether nuclear-armed or conventionally-armed, ground-launched, intermediate-range missile systems are destabilizing because of their very short time-to-target capabilities afford little or no warning of attack.

Instead of a dangerous pursuit of such INF missile deployments, this conference must strongly encourage the INF states parties to refrain from deploying intermediate-range, ground-launched missiles and urge Moscow and Washington to engage in talks designed to produce a new INF-missile control arrangement.

For example, NATO could declare, as a bloc, that no alliance members will field any currently INF Treaty-prohibited missiles in Europe so long as Russia does not deploy treaty-prohibited systems where they could hit NATO territory. This would require Russia to move at least some currently deployed 9M729 missiles.

The U.S. and Russian presidents could agree to this “no-first INF missile deployment plan” through an executive agreement that would be verified through national technical means of intelligence. Russia could be offered additional confidence-building measures to ensure that the United States would not place offensive missiles in the Mk. 41 missile-interceptor launchers now deployed Europe as part of the Aegis Ashore system.

New START

Meanwhile, the START agreement, which verifiably caps each side’s strategic deployed arsenals to no more than 1,550 warheads and 700 strategic delivery systems, will expire in February 2021 unless extended or replaced.

Without a positive decision to extend New START, there would be no legally binding limits on the world’s two largest nuclear superpowers for the first time since 1972. The risk of unconstrained U.S.-Russian nuclear competition, and even more fraught relations, would grow.

In a March 2018 interview with NBC, President Putin voiced interest in an extension of New START or even possibly further cuts in warhead numbers. In April 2018, the Trump administration announced it is pursuing a “whole-of-government review” about whether to extend New START. In 2017, shortly before he became the U.S. National Security Advisor, John Bolton publicly called on President Trump to terminate New START.

New START clearly serves U.S. and Russian security interests. The treaty imposes important bounds on the strategic nuclear competition between the two nuclear superpowers.

Failure to extend New START, on the other hand, would compromise each side’s understanding of the other’s nuclear forces, open the door to unconstrained nuclear competition, and undermine international security.

Fortunately, the treaty can be extended by up to five years (to 2026) by a simple agreement by the two presidents—without complex negotiations and without further approval from the U.S. Senate or Russian Duma.

An agreement to extend New START requires the immediate start of consultations on key issues of concern to both sides.

Russia has raised concerns about the verification of the conversion of some U.S. nuclear weapons delivery systems to conventional roles. The United States, for its part, has understandably suggested that new Russian strategic nuclear weapons systems, including the Status-6 nuclear-armed, long-range, torpedo and the proposed nuclear-propelled, long-range cruise missile, should be accounted for under New START.

If both sides are willing to engage in a professional dialogue relatively soon, these issues can be addressed in a mutually agreed manner either before or soon after a decision to extend New START is taken.

New START extension would also provide additional time for Trump, or his successor, to pursue negotiations on more far-reaching nuclear cuts involving strategic and tactical nuclear systems, an understanding about the limits of U.S. strategic missile defenses, and limitations on non-nuclear strategic strike weapons that both sides are beginning to develop.

A Core Issue for NPT 2020

These issues must be central issues for this preparatory conference and all NPT States Parties before the 2020 Review Conference.

Some delegations claim that before progress on nuclear disarmament can be achieved, the right environment must be established. Such arguments overlook how progress on disarmament has been achieved in the past and can be achieved today.

Such arguments should not be allowed to distract from a disappointing lack of political will to engage in a common-sense nuclear risk reduction dialogue.

In reality, the current environment demands the resumption of a productive, professional dialogue between representatives of the White House and the Kremlin on nuclear arms control and disarmament.

The urgency of these problems also demands that all NPT states parties, as part of their own solemn legal responsibilities to uphold the NPT and advance their Article VI goals. NPT states parties should:

  • press Presidents Trump and Putin to relaunch the dialogue on strategic stability;
  • pledge to reach early agreement to extend the New START agreement; and
  • refrain from pursuing deployments of INF-prohibited missile systems in the European theater (or elsewhere) that produce a dangerous action-reaction cycle.

We strongly urge each delegation to emphasize these priority steps to ensure key states remain in compliance with the NPT and sustain progress toward the attainment of all of the treaty’s core goals and objectives.

Endorsed by:

Alexey Arbatov, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (academician), head of the Center for International Security, Е.М. Primakov Institute for World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences, Member of Parliament (State Duma) in 1993-2003 and former deputy chair of the Defense Committee, member of the Soviet START I delegation

Dr. Christoph Bertram, Director, International Institute of Strategic Studies 1974-1982, Director, German Institute for International and Security Studies (SWP) 1998-2005

Dr. Bruce Blair, Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton; Co-founder, Global Zero, Former Member, Secretary of State International Security Advisory Board

Des Browne, former UK Secretary of State for Defence

Matthew Bunn, Professor of Practice, Harvard Kennedy School**

Joseph Cirincione, President, Ploughshares Fund

Lisa Clark and Reiner Braun, Co-Presidents, International Peace Bureau

Thomas Countryman, former acting U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security and Chair of the Board of the Arms Control Association

Tarja Cronberg, Chair of the Peace Union of Finland and as a former member of the European Parliament

Jayantha Dhanapala, Ambassador, former UN Under-Secretary-General for

Disarmament Affairs, President 1995 NPT Review & Extension Conference, former

President Pugwash Conferences on Science & World Affairs

Sergio Duarte, President of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and Global Affairs, former UN high representative for disarmament, President of the 2005 NPT Review Conference, and a member of Brazil’s delegation to the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee talks on the NPT

Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Dr. Joseph Gerson, President and CEO, Campaign for Peace Disarmament and Common Security

Jonathan Granoff, President, Global Security Institute, and UN Representative of the Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates

John Hallam, People for Nuclear Disarmament Human Survival Project, and Co-Convener, Abolition 2000 Nuclear Risk Reduction Working Group

Dr. Ira Helfand, Co-President, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, former Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs, U.S. Department of State, and Founder of Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security, and Conflict Transformation

Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy

Angela Kane, Senior Fellow, Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-proliferation, former United Nations Under-Secretary General and High Representative for Disarmament

Dr. Catherine M. Kelleher, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, and the Secretary of Defense’s representative to NATO

Ambassador (ret.) Laura Kennedy, former U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament

Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association*

Michael Krepon, Co-founder, The Stimson Center

Richard G. Lugar, United States Senator (Ret.), President, The Lugar Center

Dr. Victor Mizin, Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Science, former Soviet/Russian diplomat

Prof. Götz Neuneck, Chair German Pugwash and Council Member Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs

Ali Nouri, President, Federation of American Scientists

Olga Oliker, Director, Europe Program, International Crisis Group**

Jungeun Park, Secretary General, People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (RoK)

Thomas Pickering, former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and the Russian Federation

Amb. (ret.) Steven Pifer, William J Perry Fellow, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University**

Dr. William C. Potter, Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Guy C. Quinlan, President, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy

Susi Snyder, Nuclear Disarmament Programme Manager, PAX (Netherlands)

John Tierney, Executive Director, Council for a Livable World, and Executive Director, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

Greg Thielmann, former Director of the Office of Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Affairs in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research

Sir Adam Thomson, Chief Executive, European Leadership Network

Aaron Tovish, Executive Director, Zona Libre

Hiromichi Umebayashi, Founder & Special Advisor, Peace Depot Inc. Japan

Rick Wayman, Deputy Director, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Anthony Wier, Legislative Secretary for Nuclear Disarmament and Pentagon Spending, Friends Committee on National Legislation

*Statement coordinator

** Institution listed for identification purposes only

Description: 

Remarks by Daryl Kimball on behalf of NGO Representatives and Experts to the 2019 NPT PrepCom for the 2020 Review Conference at the United Nations in New York.

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Lessons Learned From Denuclearizing States


May 2019
By Paul Kerr

Finding ways to roll back nuclear weapon programs, particularly in countries such as North Korea, has vexed U.S. and world leaders for years, but there have been several cases in which states completely ended their nuclear weapons programs.

A guard keeps watch over Libyan uranium-enrichment centrifuges transferred to the United States in 2004. The end of Libya's nuclear weapons program was verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency. (Photo: U.S. Energy Department)For example, South Africa destroyed its nuclear weapons. Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine possessed nuclear weapons and transferred the warheads to Russia, a nuclear-armed state. Iraq and Libya ended nuclear weapons development programs. Other governments, including those of South Korea and Taiwan, abandoned the pursuit of nuclear weapons in response to U.S. pressure.

A review of these cases, South Africa and Libya in particular, reveals three salient observations that could support the development of robust and applicable tools to address current and future nonproliferation problems. First, voluntary state actions have effectively produced confidence in the peaceful nature of their nuclear programs. Second, existing institutions have been indispensable for managing solutions to proliferation cases. Third, no extraordinary restrictions on peaceful nuclear technology have been needed to provide the confidence-building transparency that reduces concerns about nuclear programs.

In the Beginning, the NPT

Early nonproliferation efforts focused on the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which permits its non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to possess civilian nuclear programs under certain constraints. Boasting 191 parties today, the treaty provides for non-nuclear-weapon states’ right to “develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes” while forgoing the acquisition or development of nuclear weapons.

The treaty represented a watershed moment for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), with which all non-nuclear-weapon treaty states must conclude a comprehensive safeguards agreement. Such agreements empower the agency to monitor nuclear activities to ensure that nuclear materials, particularly uranium and plutonium, in peaceful nuclear activities are not diverted to nuclear weapons programs. Prior to the NPT’s 1970 entry into force, the agency applied safeguards to specific nuclear facilities, but the treaty-required comprehensive safeguards agreements enable the IAEA to assess all nuclear material in a country, as well as nuclear facilities and associated design information.

The IAEA safeguards system has evolved since receiving this larger role. For example, the agency discovered major shortcomings in the system after learning that Iraq had pursued a significant nuclear weapons program prior to the 1991 Persian Gulf War while in compliance with its IAEA comprehensive safeguards agreement. The agency subsequently implemented Programme 93+2 to improve its ability to detect undeclared nuclear facilities and activities. This exercise produced several significant outcomes for safeguards implementation that are particularly germane to other denuclearization cases.

Perhaps the most important of these outcomes is the Model Additional Protocol, approved by the IAEA Board of Governors in 1997, which complements the NPT-required comprehensive safeguards agreements.1 Such protocols, which are adopted voluntarily, augment IAEA authority to inspect certain nuclear-related facilities and require states to provide the agency with additional information about their nuclear programs.

In addition, the IAEA board decided in 1992 that states with comprehensive safeguards agreements are obligated to provide the agency with design information for new nuclear facilities “at the time of the decision to construct, or to authorize the construction” of such facilities.2 The IAEA had previously required states to provide this information at least 180 days “before the introduction of nuclear material into the facility.”3 Lastly, beginning in 1999, the IAEA started to draw for some states the “broader conclusion” that all of a state’s nuclear material “remains in peaceful activities.”4

The Two Most Relevant Cases

South Africa

During the late 1970s and the 1980s, South Africa built several nuclear explosive devices that used weapons-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU). The government ended its nuclear weapons program in 1989 and completed dismantling the weapons by September 1991. After acceding to the NPT in July 1991, South Africa concluded a comprehensive IAEA safeguards agreement two months later.5 The country previously had no legal obligation to eliminate its nuclear weapons program or place all of its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards.6 An IAEA General Conference resolution in September 1991 requested IAEA Director-General Hans Blix to “verify the completeness of the inventory of South Africa's nuclear installations and material.”7 After investigating the country’s program, the IAEA reported in 1993 that South Africa’s declared uranium-enrichment production was consistent with the agency’s findings. The IAEA “found no indication to suggest that there remain any sensitive components of the nuclear weapons program which have not been either rendered useless or converted to commercial non-nuclear applications or peaceful nuclear usage.”8

Although South Africa “had no obligation to declare…the past purpose” of the nuclear material that it had placed under safeguards,9 the IAEA was obligated to account for all of the nuclear material that the country had produced. Agency inspectors evaluated South Africa’s declarations pursuant to its safeguards agreement and verified that the government had dismantled its weapons program. During the investigation, agency officials inspected facilities that produced nuclear material, such as enrichment facilities, and received access to the country’s nuclear weapons facilities, such as those devoted to building, storing, and testing nuclear explosive devices. According to the IAEA, South Africa cooperated fully with the investigation by, for example, issuing a “standing invitation” to the agency that provided “access to any location or facility associated with” the weapons program.10 IAEA officials later described South African government officials’ “active co-operation...in arranging for access to all facilities that the [IAEA inspection] team requested to visit.”11

Today, the IAEA implements safeguards in South Africa just as it does in other NPT non-nuclear-weapon states with comparable nuclear programs. The government concluded an additional protocol to its comprehensive safeguards agreement in 2002, and the IAEA later drew the broader conclusion regarding South Africa’s nuclear material. The country is not subject to any restrictions on its nuclear program beyond those contained in the NPT and the government’s safeguards agreement. For example, South Africa, unlike Iran under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and Iraq, was not required to dismantle, abandon, or limit its uranium-enrichment facilities or related research and development programs. South Africa operates safeguarded nuclear reactors and has discussed resuming its enrichment program.12

Libya

Following months of negotiations with the United Kingdom and United States, Libya publicly revealed in December 2003 that it had pursued a clandestine nuclear weapons program. The government had imported nuclear material, design information, components for a uranium-enrichment program, and design information related to nuclear weapons development, but the country never developed nuclear weapons or the ability to produce them. Unlike South Africa, Libya was party to the NPT with a comprehensive safeguards agreement and had concealed its acquisitions from the IAEA.

After its announcement, Tripoli worked with London and Washington to remove documents, equipment, and material associated with its covert nuclear program and asked the IAEA to “confirm, through verification, that all of its nuclear activities would henceforth be under safeguards and used exclusively for peaceful purposes.”13 The IAEA witnessed the removal of items related to Libya’s enrichment program to the United States and conducted an investigation of the government’s undeclared nuclear activities.14 IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei reported in September 2008 that the IAEA considered Libya’s unreported nuclear activities as “no longer outstanding.”15

The IAEA used no additional legal authority to carry out the verification mission in the country; Libya signed an additional protocol in March 2004, but it did not enter into force until 2006. Moreover, ElBaradei reported that Libya had provided the IAEA with “unrestricted and prompt access, beyond that required under its safeguards agreement and additional protocol, to those locations, information and individuals deemed necessary by the agency to fulfill its verification requirements.”16 As with South Africa, Libya has no extraordinary restrictions on its nuclear program, and the IAEA has drawn the broader conclusion with respect to nuclear material in the country.

Other Notable Cases

Iraq

The IAEA’s experience conducting its UN-mandated inspection and monitoring mission in Iraq is anomalous. Although the UN Security Council, in the aftermath of Iraq’s defeat in the 1991 Gulf War, subjected the government to the most intrusive inspection and monitoring scheme ever devised, the inspectors’ efforts, despite being generally successful, were insufficient to prevent the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of the country.17

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei (left) and Hans Blix, head of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, meet reporters after briefing the UN Security Council in January 2003 on the status of WMD inspections in Iraq. Their information did not dissuade the U.S.-led coalition from invading Iraq soon after.  (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)Following the 1991 war, the council adopted a series of resolutions requiring Baghdad to eliminate its nuclear weapons program and implement other steps to prevent the program’s reconstitution. These mandates supplemented Iraq’s NPT and safeguards agreement obligations. To verify Iraq’s compliance with these requirements, the resolutions augmented IAEA authority with powers that considerably exceeded those that the agency possessed under Iraq’s safeguards agreement.18 For example, although comprehensive safeguards agreements only require governments to declare nuclear material and associated facilities and design information, Resolution 687, which the Security Council adopted in April 1991, required Iraq to submit a much more expansive declaration to the UN secretary-general and the IAEA director-general. The resolution also required Baghdad to destroy certain components of its nuclear weapons program and allow the IAEA to remove specified nuclear materials from the country.19 In addition, Resolution 715 gave IAEA inspectors extraordinary authorities, such as the right to conduct unannounced short-notice inspections “at any time and without hindrance, of any site, facility, area, location, activity, material or other item in Iraq” and the right to “stop and inspect vehicles, ships, aircraft or any other means of transportation” within the country. Other resolutions also imposed extraordinary restrictions on Iraq’s nuclear program. For example, Resolution 707 required Baghdad to “[h]alt all nuclear activities of any kind, except for use of isotopes for medical, agricultural or industrial purposes,” until the council determined that Iraq had fully complied with Resolution 687’s requirements, as well as its IAEA safeguards obligations.

Despite Iraq’s initial efforts to conceal its nuclear weapons program from inspectors, the IAEA successfully completed most of its tasks with respect to destroying, removing, and “rendering harmless” the program’s elements by the end of 1992.20 Although the agency withdrew its inspectors in December 1998 following a considerable period of decreased Iraqi cooperation, the IAEA had been “able to draw a coherent picture of Iraq’s past nuclear weapons program, and to dismantle what was known of that program.”21 This success, however, did not resolve concerns that Iraq was still pursuing nuclear and prohibited weapons. The opacity exacerbated by the inspectors’ 1998 withdrawal increased existing suspicion caused by Iraq’s initial laggard compliance with the inspectors. Inspectors returned to Iraq shortly after the Security Council adopted Resolution 1441 in November 2002 and found no evidence of a revived Iraqi nuclear weapons program. Nevertheless, the United States led an invasion of the country in March 2003 shortly after the inspectors left the country.22 In 2010, Resolution 1957 repealed Resolution 687’s requirements, and Iraq is currently subject only to its comprehensive safeguards agreement and the additional protocol to that agreement. The IAEA has drawn the broader conclusion with respect to nuclear material in the country.

Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine

The 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, an NPT-recognized nuclear-weapon state, created a different situation. Three Soviet successor nations (Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine) found themselves with strategic nuclear weapons on their territory. After extended discussions with Russia and the United States, the three agreed to adhere to the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states within “the shortest possible time.” Belarus acceded to the treaty in 1993; the other two followed suit in 1994. Although the three countries eventually concluded comprehensive safeguards agreements with the IAEA (Belarus and Kazakhstan in 1995, Ukraine in 1998), the agency was not involved in verifying the weapons’ destruction. Instead, the three countries transferred the weapons’ warheads to Russia, where they were subject to U.S.-Russian strategic arms control treaty inspections, and the countries received U.S. bilateral assistance for destroying the delivery vehicles.23

Iran and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

The JCPOA was designed to resolve the international community’s suspicions that Iran, a non-nuclear-weapon state with comprehensive IAEA safeguards, was pursuing a nuclear weapons program. These suspicions were well grounded by a number of factors, particularly the exposure of Tehran’s past nuclear weapons program and its noncompliance with its safeguards agreement. The JCPOA was not necessary to dismantle a nuclear weapons program because Iran never developed such weapons, and the U.S. intelligence community assesses that Iran halted that program, to which Tehran has never admitted, in December 2003.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tours the Natanz uranium-enrichment facility in 2008. The 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement has capped Iran's enrichment program. (Photo: Office of the Presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran via Getty Images)The JCPOA not only reaffirmed Iran’s NPT and safeguards obligations, but also incorporated other important elements of the IAEA safeguards system in order to prevent Iranian reconstitution of its weapons program. For example, the agreement requires Iran to implement its additional protocol even though Iran has not yet ratified it—states normally conclude such protocols voluntarily—and to resume providing the IAEA with design notification of new nuclear facilities in accordance with the 1992 IAEA Board of Governors changes; Tehran had stopped providing this information in 2007.24 The JCPOA also states that the IAEA will pursue drawing the broader conclusion that all nuclear material in Iran is being used exclusively for peaceful purposes, a process that will likely entail investigating any unresolved questions about past Iranian nuclear activities.25

The agreement imposed a number of temporary monitoring and inspection requirements, as well as physical constraints, on Iran’s civil nuclear program, none of which are required by comprehensive safeguards agreements or additional protocols.26 Moreover, the JCPOA prohibits Iran indefinitely from engaging in a number of dual-use activities that could contribute to developing nuclear weapons.

The UN Security Council played a role with Iran during the years preceding the JCPOA and in the agreement itself. The council adopted a series of resolutions between 2006 and 2010 that imposed a number of requirements on Iran, most of which Tehran ignored. For example, these resolutions included a requirement that Iran suspend most of its nuclear programs and conclude an additional protocol. The council adopted a resolution in July 2015 that mandated Iranian compliance with the JCPOA and terminated the previous resolutions’ requirements.

How the Cases Apply

The South African and Libyan examples are most applicable to future nonproliferation problems for at least two reasons. First, those two governments’ NPT status most closely resembles that of most countries. Except for the NPT-recognized nuclear-weapon states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and the treaty’s nonsignatories possessing nuclear weapons (India, Israel, and Pakistan), most states are NPT non-nuclear-weapon states.27 The cases of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine have limited applicability because those countries had the unique status of new states that inherited weapons from a nuclear-weapon state. Second, the Iraq case similarly has limited relevance because the Security Council imposed the extraordinary inspection, disarmament, and other conditions under circumstances that policymakers cannot easily replicate.

Governments grappling with future nonproliferation problems will obviously decide the type and degree of assurances that they will demand, in accordance with the situation’s unique circumstances. Experience reveals, however, that institutions are of vital importance for managing proliferation problems and that coercive solutions to those problems have serious limitations. This may seem obvious, but governments and outside observers have often ignored these notions. Indeed, a greater appreciation for UN inspectors’ work in Iraq would have obviated the need for the use of military force to eliminate concern with respect to a suspected Iraqi nuclear weapons program.

In general, the international community accepts the IAEA safeguards system’s mandatory and voluntary elements as adequate assurance that NPT non-nuclear-weapon states are not pursuing nuclear weapons. South Africa’s and Libya’s nuclear programs are currently subject only to the obligations of their IAEA safeguards agreements and their status as NPT non-nuclear-weapon states. For Iran, the permanent restrictions on that country’s nuclear program exist pursuant to Tehran’s safeguards agreement and the NPT or UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which makes the JCPOA binding on Iran.28 The widespread international support for these arrangements indicates that they are sufficient to provide most of the international community with confidence that these countries are not reconstituting their weapons programs. The IAEA and related institutions’ continued robustness is necessary for this confidence to continue and in order to remain a foundation on which policymakers can depend for any future nonproliferation arrangements.

The Security Council has clearly played an important role in nonproliferation cases. Perhaps the most important recent example is Resolution 2231. Such resolutions will remain a future option for policymakers, but those tools have accomplished only mixed results in the past. As noted, Iran ignored many Security Council resolution requirements before concluding the JCPOA. Furthermore, India, North Korea, and Pakistan are expanding their nuclear arsenals despite Security Council resolutions calling for cessation of this activity.29 Notably, Security Council resolutions did not play a significant role in the South African and Libyan cases.

Lastly, it is useful to consider the utility of extraordinary restrictions on countries’ nuclear programs, especially given the uncertain future of the JCPOA and the possibility, however remote, of any nuclear agreement with North Korea. In recent years, many observers have advocated prohibiting or discouraging countries from possessing uranium-enrichment or spent nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities, both of which can produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. Such U.S.-led efforts, however, have historically failed. For example, the United States proposed a Nuclear Suppliers Group ban on the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technology to countries that did not already possess it, but failed to persuade the group to support the measure. Moreover, U.S.-led diplomatic efforts to prevent Iran from operating an enrichment program failed for years until the JCPOA was agreed. The international community appears willing to allow such facilities as long as they are well monitored by the IAEA. Future policies will need to account for this reality.

Past cases of denuclearization show the limits of coercive approaches to nonproliferation and of extraordinary restrictions on peaceful nuclear technology. These factors circumscribe policymaker options, but history also demonstrates that such measures have been unnecessary for providing transparency and confidence in suspect nuclear programs. The necessary institutions have shown they are capable of inspecting and monitoring NPT states’ nuclear programs, but their continued viability depends on sustained international support.

 

ENDNOTES

1. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), “Model Protocol Additional to the Agreement(s) Between State(s) and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Application of Safeguards,” INFCIRC/540 (Corrected), September 1997.

2. IAEA Board of Governors, “Submission of Design Information: The Provision and Use of Design Information,” GOV/2554/Att.2/Rev. 2 (1992).

3. IAEA Board of Governors, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Report by the Director General,” GOV/2003/40, June 6, 2003.

4. IAEA Board of Governors, “Supplementary Document to the Report on the Conceptualization and Development of Safeguards Implementation at the State Level (GOV/2013/38): Report by the Director General,” GOV/2014/41, August 13, 2014.

5. Prior to its nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) accession, South Africa had some individual nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards.

6. Resolutions adopted by the IAEA General Conference and the UN General Assembly in 1986 demanded that South Africa place all of its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards, but these resolutions were not legally binding on the government.

7. IAEA, “South Africa's Nuclear Capabilities,” GC(XXXV)/RES/567, September 1991.

8. IAEA, “The Agency's Verification Activities in South Africa: Report by the Director General,” GOV/2684, September 8, 1993.

9. Adolf von Baeckmann, Gary Dillon, and Demetrius Perricos, “Nuclear Verification in South Africa,” IAEA Bulletin, Vol. 37, No. 1 (1995).

10. IAEA, “Agency's Verification Activities in South Africa.”

11. Von Baeckmann, Dillon, and Perricos.

12. Sarah Wild, “SA Needs Skilled Nuclear Scientists,” Mail & Guardian, October 18, 2013; Wendell Roelf, “S. Africa Considers Nuclear Fuel Cycle Facilities,” Reuters, April 2, 2012. South Africa has pursued several uranium-enrichment technologies.

13. IAEA Board of Governors, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya: Report by the Director General,” GOV/2008/39, September 12, 2008.

14. For details, see IAEA Board of Governors, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya: Report by the Director General,” GOV/2004/59, August 30, 2004; IAEA, “Removal of High-Enriched Uranium in Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,” March 8, 2004, https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/removal-high-enriched-uranium-libyan-arab-jamahiriya (updated July 27, 2017).

15. IAEA Board of Governors, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.”

16. Mohamed ElBaradei, The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2011), p. 153.

17. For a longer discussion, see Paul Kerr, “Iraq: Disarmament Without Resolution,” Arms Control Today, January 2013.

18. Following the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 687, the UN secretary-general formed the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) to verify Iraq’s compliance with the resolution. IAEA Director-General Hans Blix established an action team to conduct the agency’s portion of those tasks. UNSCOM verified Iraq’s compliance with Resolution 687’s requirements relating to chemical and biological weapons and delivery vehicles.

19. Resolution 687 required Iraq to declare “the locations, amounts, and types” of any “nuclear weapons or nuclear-weapons-usable material or any subsystems or components or any [related] research, development, support or manufacturing facilities” and required the government to “place all of its nuclear-weapons-usable materials under the exclusive control, for custody and removal” of the IAEA and to “accept urgent on-site inspection and the destruction, removal or rendering harmless” of items relating to Baghdad’s nuclear weapons program.

20. UN Security Council, “Note by the Secretary-General,” S/1997/779, October 8, 1997.

21. IAEA, “Work Programme of IAEA in Iraq Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1284 (1999),” March 19, 2003, https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/focus/iraq/wp_res1284.

22. Although concern about Iraq’s suspected weapons of mass destruction programs was not the only or even primary justification for the invasion, the United States and United Kingdom used such concern to secure public support for the invasion.

23. U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, “Annual Report to Congress 1996.”

24. Iran has complied with both of these requirements.

25. An extensive IAEA investigation revealed what a 2015 report from agency Director-General Yukiya Amano described as “a range of [Iranian] activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.” IAEA Board of Governors, “Final Assessment on Past and Present Outstanding Issues Regarding Iran’s Nuclear Programme: Report by the Director General,” GOV/2015/68, December 2, 2015.

26. For details, see Paul Kerr, “The JCPOA and Safeguards: Model or Outlier?” The Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 24, Nos. 3/4 (2017).

27. North Korea announced its withdrawal from the NPT in 2003, but that decision has not been formally recognized by treaty’s other states-parties.

28. For example, the dual-use activities described are prohibited indefinitely.

29. The UN Security Council resolution concerning India and Pakistan, Resolution 1172, is nonbinding.

 


Paul Kerr has been an analyst on nonproliferation issues with the Congressional Research Service since 2007.

As the United States seeks denuclearization in North Korea, earlier cases may offer some lessons.

Ban Nuclear Weapons


May 2019

(Photo: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)I was pleased to see that Paul Meyer's “Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament: Striding Forward or Stepping Back?” (ACT, April 2019) featured a photograph of an activist: me. I have devoted many of my 90 years trying to warn about nuclear dangers. We live in such a precarious world, with some countries having many lethal weapons, getting more, and ignoring the result of destruction to human beings and our world—that is, as long as “I’m all right Jack.” I hold my sign on busy streets and watch the public who usually ignore the message. I think perhaps because I am so old, most people passing by purposefully ignore looking—three words only. Don’t they realize that we are in danger of complete extinction of the human race? Of all the things we hold dear—families, careers—complete annihilation of our continents. I then think of Oppenheimer who cited the Bhagavad Gita following the first test of the atomic bomb, 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds'; and before the bombs were dropped in Japan, he asked, “What have we done?” —Marty Morrison, Sydney, Australia

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