Dismantling of Iran N regime to begin

During coming weeks, Iran is obliged to dismantle most of its nuclear programme through several steps.

Tehran and Washington are gearing up for implementation of the nuclear deal signed in July by the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany.

Ahead of “Adoption Day” – October 18 – the day all seven signatories formally committed to carry out the terms of the agreement, US President Barack Obama issued an order to his administration to begin issuing waivers for sanctions once the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) certifies that Iran has honoured its obligations. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei endorsed the deal on the October 21.

The next step is the “Implementation Day,” when the IAEA announces Iran has carried out its initial obligations, triggering the first round of sanctions relief. During coming weeks and months, Iran is obliged to dismantle most of its nuclear programme by completing several steps.

They are: putting into storage 13,000 or two-thirds of its uranium enriching centrifuges, reducing by selling or diluting its 7,845 kg stockpile of five per cent  enriched uranium to 300 kg, installing intrusive monitoring systems to ensure constant IAEA surveillance at all nuclear-connected facilities, removing the core of the Arak heavy water reactor and filling it with concrete so weapons-grade plutonium cannot be produced, ending enrichment at the Fordow plant and turning it into a research centre. Iran must also allow the IAEA access to all key locations and information.

Iran’s nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi has said he expects the deal will be implemented by the end of the year. However, when asked if Iran had begun deactivating centrifuges, he said the process had not yet begun and that preparations for the effort need to be taken before this can happen.

The next date of importance is December 15 when the IAEA is set to report on how far Iran had progressed in nuclear weapons work before this aspect of the programme was abandoned in 2003. This has been a contentious issue between Tehran and the IAEA for years and must be resolved either by disclosure or IAEA agreement to drop the matter.

On this issue, the US has adopted a contradictory policy, demanding full disclosure but arguing that Iran is unlikely to admit that it had a weapons programme. Such an admission, the Obama administration told Congress, “is not necessary for purposes of verifying (nuclear deal) commitments” because the US already knows a great deal about Iran's past activities.

Meanwhile, the US treasury department is expected to issue waivers for non-US firms to do business with Iran, focusing on the banking sector, oil exports, and investments in specified economic sectors.  The US companies would receive waivers dealing with limited commercial aircraft sales, handicrafts and carpets.

The European Union is also meant to work out a programme for terminating sanctions once "Implementation Day" comes.  The US, China and Iran will also produce a plan for redesigning the Arak reactor so it can provide power or manufacture radioactive medical isotopes without producing weapons-grade plutonium.

“Transition Day” is eight years form Adoption Day but could be earlier if the IAEA decides that all nuclear material and facilities are involved in peaceful activities. On this day, if Iran has complied with its obligations more of the punitive sanctions regime would be lifted. “Termination Day,” full implementation by all parties of the terms of the deal, would be hailed by a UN Security Council resolution. 

Imposition of sanctions

While the steps for carrying out the nuclear agreement have been carefully mapped out, either Iran or the US, its principal antagonist, could disrupt the process at any time. Differences over monitoring, sanctions, and penalties could halt the dismantling of Iran's nuclear programme.

Politics could also complicate the situation. Tehran is concerned that Washington could impose sanctions for reasons not covered by the deal. Three issues currently at dispute are Iran’s recent ballistic missile test, support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Shia rebels in Yemen, and human rights abuses.  Fresh sanctions on such issues could prompt Iran to suspend dismantling of its nuclear programme.

While the US insists on continuous IAEA monitoring of Iran’s nuclear programme, Iran has adopted a law calling for constant surveillance of US actions on sanctions relief with the aim of ensuring that Washington is meeting its commitments and that the US is not interfering in the easing or ending of sanctions by other countries.

The strong commitment to the deal of both Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Obama could provide momentum for early, faithful implementation. Rouhani wants to secure sanctions relief before parliamentary elections in February 2016 while Obama would like to use his success with Iran to tackle Pakistan’s growing stockpile of nuclear weapons.
 
Delay could offer opponents in both countries opportunities to undermine and sabotage the process. Obama’s presidency provides Rouhani with only a 12-month window of opportunity to move forward because of next November’s US presidential and congressional elections. The new inhabitant of the White House could very well be a spoiler, whether Democrat or Republican.

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