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The Iran Primer

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Rouhani at Davos: "Nothing Impossible" on US Relations

            On January 22, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would respond positively to U.S. actions that help “eradicate animosity” between the two countries. He acknowledged the difficulty in improving U.S.-Iran relations but added that “nothing is impossible” in an interview with Swiss television station RTS. The president arrived in in Davos, Switzerland on January 22 to attend the 44th World Economic Forum.
           
In an address to the world’s top oil executives, Rouhani called the new U.S.-Iran engagement since his election “a major development since Iran’s Islamic Revolution.” But he said “ruling bodies” in the United States need to accept Iran’s “cultural maturity” and flourishing civilization “not only in words but in actions as well.” The following are tweets based on Rouhani’s interview and speech. Rouhani has acknowledged that his tweets are posted by his “friends.”

RTS Interview
World Economic Forum Speech

Click here to watch the RTS interview in French.

 

 

Rouhani Tweet Streak on Syria Peace Talks

            On January 22, President Hassan Rouhani said that Syria peace conference in Geneva “has already failed before it has started” because of the “lack of influential players in the meeting.” He criticized the gathering for inviting “states which sponsor terrorism and those responsible for instability in the region,” according to Iranian state media. The United Nations had revoked its invitation to Iran to attend the talks two days earlier. The following tweets are based on Rouhani’s comments before leaving for the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Rouhani has acknowledged that his tweets are posted by his “friends.”

 

 

Iran Disinvited from Syria Peace Talks

            On January 20, the United Nations revoked its invitation to Iran to attend the peace talks on Syria. The following are statements by the United Nations, the State Department and Iran.

 
Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on developments related to Syria
 
            During the brutal conflict of the past three years, the Syrian people have experienced horrendous suffering, humanitarian shortages and human rights abuses.  The Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012 remains the internationally agreed framework for ending the crisis.  It is the basis on which the global community will gather on Wednesday in Montreux, Switzerland, and the foundation for the negotiations between the Syrian parties that will begin on Friday in Geneva.
            Throughout the Syrian conflict, the Secretary-General has sought to do everything within his power for a political solution, which is the only path forward.  He has consistently maintained that regional partners with influence on the Syrian parties should do their part in promoting implementation of the Geneva Communiqué, including the establishment of a transitional governing body with full executive powers.  Most recently, he has tried to ensure that all those who can contribute to the success of a Syrian peace process be present in Montreux to express their solidarity and support for the Syrian people.
            In that spirit, in a series of meetings and telephone conversations, senior Iranian officials assured the Secretary-General that Iran understood and supported the basis and goal of the Conference, including the Geneva Communiqué.  The Secretary-General is deeply disappointed by Iranian public statements today that are not at all consistent with that stated commitment.  He continues to urge Iran to join the global consensus behind the Geneva Communiqué.  Given that it has chosen to remain outside that basic understanding, he has decided that the one-day Montreux gathering will proceed without Iran’s participation.
The Secretary-General looks forward to joining the initiating parties -- the Russian Federation and the United States -- as well as the other States and organizations that will attend this long-awaited and hugely important push for peace.  The Syrian parties, the region and the international community have an opportunity and a responsibility to end the violence and begin a transition towards a new Syria.
 
 
Statement on Geneva II by State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki
 
            As we've stated many times, the purpose of the conference is the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué, including the establishment by mutual consent of a transitional governing body with full executive authorities.  We are hopeful that, in the wake of today's announcement, all parties can now return to focus on the task at hand, which is bringing an end to the suffering of the Syrian people and beginning a process toward a long overdue political transition. 
 
Statement by UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee
 
            The   Islamic Republic of Iran appreciates the efforts of the UN Secretary General and his special envoy, Mr. Brahimi in finding a political solution for Syrian crisis. Iran has always been supportive of finding a political solution for this crisis.  
            However the Islamic Republic of Iran does not accept any preconditions for its participation in Geneva II conference. If the participation of Iran is conditioned to accept Geneva I communique, Iran will not participate in Geneva II conference. 
 

Day 1 of Nuke Deal: US, IAEA, EU Remarks

            The nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers went into effect on January 20. The following are comments by the United States, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, and the European Union. As part of the deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced it will double the number of inspectors checking on Iranian nuclear sites.

State Department Briefing: Administration Officials on Implementation of the Joint Plan of Action
 
January 20, 2014
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:   I will just briefly give an overview of the steps that were taken today and put in a bit of context and then turn it over to our various other experts on the call to get in more details about the IAEA report, the sanctions piece of it.
 
The basic point is that you’ll recall last week the P5+1 countries and Iran agreed that January 20th would be the start date for the Joint Plan of Action, and that would be based on an IAEA report that Iran was complying with its responsibilities in the JPOA.  Earlier today, the IAEA did issue that report and it confirmed that Iran is implementing those initial steps as part of the JPOA.  And on the basis of the information we got from the IAEA, we and our P5+1 partners and the EU have determined that Iran is complying with its responsibilities, and so we in turn can implement our reciprocal measures today.
 
We think this is an important, meaningful step forward in our efforts to achieve a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program.  It is the first time in nearly a decade that Iran has taken specific and concrete actions to halt the progress of its program and to roll it back in key respects.  Experts will get into this in more detail; I’m sure you’ll have questions.  But what the IAEA report was able to verify is that as of today, Iran, among other things, has stopped enriching uranium above 5 percent, it has disabled the interconnections between the cascades being used to enrich up to do 20 percent, and it has begun the process of diluting half of its 20 percent stockpile while the other half will be converted to oxide over the next six months.  So those are three important concrete steps that it – the IAEA was able to report today that Iran is now doing.
 
Just to recall and remind, the JPOA requires Iran to do a number of other things, or more precisely, to not do another – a number of other things.  And over the course of the next six months, beyond these initial steps that Iran is actively doing, the IAEA will monitor to make sure that it is not doing other things prescribed by the JPOA, including (inaudible) construction, installing components on the Arak reactor for the plutonium route, not enriching uranium in roughly half of the installed centrifuges at Natanz, limiting its centrifuge production to those needed to replace damaged machines, and other important steps.
 
On transparency and monitoring, the IAEA also stated in its report that Iran has begun providing some of the information required by the JPOA and working with the IAEA on arrangements for increased access to its nuclear facilities.  It confirmed that in order to carry out its responsibilities under the JPOA, the IAEA will roughly double the size of its inspection team that is in place together.
 
So when you put all this together – Iran complying with the nuclear-related measures of the JPOA and the expanded access that the IAEA will have – this increases our confidence that Iran cannot break out for a nuclear weapon without the rest of the world knowing in advance.  And that is actually the bottom line, and indeed the point of the JPOA – it gives us a six-month period in which we can work on a comprehensive solution to the Iranian nuclear challenge with confidence that Iran is not advancing.  And we didn’t want to negotiate this comprehensive agreement with the clock ticking as they are making progress, and that’s what this – the beginning of implementation today does for us.
 
Now, in return for Iran’s actions – and colleagues will talk about this in more detail – the U.S. and its P5+1 partners will follow through on our commitments to provide modest financial relief to Iran.  This involves some specific steps, which, again, [Senior Administration Officials] will brief you on in detail, but what I would underscore – it is – is that it does not in any way mean that Iran is open for business – quite to the contrary.  The overwhelming majority of our sanctions and the basic structure of oil and banking and financial sanctions remain in place, and the Administration is committed to aggressively enforcing those sanctions.
 
Last point on the comprehensive solution:  The implementation of the JPOA gives us six months to work on the sort of solution we will need to give the international community the assurance that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful and prevents it from getting nuclear weapons.  Tomorrow, Under Secretary Wendy Sherman will meet with her P5+1 counterparts in Geneva to begin that process of developing a unified P5+1 approach to the various issues, and there are a number of them and they’re difficult, and we don’t in any way underestimate how difficult the comprehensive solution will be.  But already, tomorrow, we’re not wasting any time because we are determined to get on with this, come forward with strong and disciplined and vigorous diplomacy to reach a peaceful resolution that will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO:  The IAEA issued its report this morning in Vienna on the status of Iran’s implementation of the commitments it made under the Joint Plan of Action.  The IAEA has confirmed that as of today, Iran has ceased enriching uranium up to 5 percent, has disabled the connections between the tandem cascades at Natanz and Fordow that had been used to enrich up to 20 percent.
 
Iran has begun diluting 20 percent UF6 and is continuing conversion of 20 percent UF6 to oxide.  Iran is not conducting any further advances at Natanz, Fordow, and Arak, and Iran is holding to its current R&D practices at the Natanz R&D facility.  And Iran has reached agreement with the IAEA on procedures to implement daily access, and is otherwise implementing its commitments for the first day.
 
Now, in addition to the Director General’s report, we have subsequently, through our mission in the IAEA in Vienna, had an opportunity to receive a technical briefing from the IAEA.  And we have learned in more detail some of the steps that have been taken by Iran and confirmed by the IAEA.  No new components have been installed at Arak, and heavy water and fuel have not been brought to the reactor.  No additional centrifuges have been installed at Natanz or Fordow, and uranium has not been fed into centrifuges that were installed there but not enriched in uranium.
 
So on the basis of all of this information we have concluded that the IAEA has confirmed that Iran is so far implementing its commitments under the Joint Plan of Action.  We will look to the IAEA to continue verifying Iran’s implementation of its commitments through the next six months as we proceed to negotiate a comprehensive solution.  So that’s a summary of where we are with the IAEA today.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE:  So let me speak for a few minutes, then, about the sanctions areas, and then I think we will turn it over to the moderator for questions.
 
As of today, the Administration has suspended for six months secondary sanctions on foreign persons engaged in transactions related to Iran’s petrochemical exports, certain trade in gold and precious metals with Iran, and the provision of goods and services to Iran’s automotive sector.  For the six months, we will also hold steady efforts to reduce Iran’s exports of crude oil to the six jurisdictions that still purchase oil from Iran.  I would note that Iran is currently exporting around 60 percent less than it was just two years ago, and it will be held to those reduced levels. 
 
The Administration will also license transactions for spare parts, inspections, and associated services necessary for the safety of flight of Iranian passenger aircraft.  In order to qualify for a lease under any of these categories, the transactions must be initiated and completed during the JPOA period – in other words, commencing no earlier than today and concluding no later than July 20th
 
In addition, we will be taking action to allow Iran to access, in installments, $4.2 billion of its restricted funds on a set schedule across the six months.  Access to a portion of these funds will be linked to Iran’s progress in completing its dilution of 20 percent enriched uranium.  Iran will not have access to the last installment until the final day of the six-month period.  We are also working with our partners in Iran to establish carefully constrained financial channels to enable Iran to make payments for humanitarian transactions, university tuition assistance for Iranian students abroad, and Iran’s UN obligations.
 
All of these suspensions are contingent upon Iran’s continuing adherence to the steps outlined in the JPOA and in the detailed associated technical understanding.  If it is determined that Iran has failed to meet its commitments, the United States Government will revoke this limited release.
 
All told, if Iran adheres to its commitments at the end of six months, it will have been able to access $4.2 billion of its restricted reserves and perhaps brought in another $2 billion in trade.  This is a drop in the bucket compared to the crippling pressure that Iran still faces.  Over this six-month period, oil sanctions alone will cost Iran $30 billion.  And at the end of the period, we expect that over $100 billion of Iran’s foreign reserves will continue to be restrained.  Indeed, at the close of the six-month period, we forecast that Iran will be in a net-negative position due to the substantial costs borne by ongoing sanctions.

Finally, just to emphasize a few top-line sanctions points, as noted, this temporary relief will not fix the Iranian economy.  It will not come close.  Iran needs between $60 to $70 billion a year to finance its foreign imports.  As you can hear, $6 to $7 billion will not fill that hole.  Inflation in Iran remains near 40 percent, one of the highest inflation rates in the world, and its economy, which contracted 6 percent in the last Persian year, is expected to contract again this year. 

Second, as the President has made clear, we will continue to vigorously enforce the vast array of sanctions that are not being suspended, so sanctions that reach Iran’s energy, banking, and trade sectors, along with its access to the international financial system.  And we will continue to target Iran’s support for terrorism and human rights abuses.
 
Finally, we are actively reaching out to international counterparts to remind them of their obligations under the existing sanctions regime.  Iran is not and will not be open for business until it reaches a comprehensive agreement with the international community that addresses all outstanding concerns.  Thank you.
 
QUESTION:  Thank you all for doing this.  [Senior Administration Official One], could you talk about the fact that it’s been widely reported that – in the FT and other organizations – that Italian, German, and other businesspeople have been flocking to Tehran in anticipation of business as usual?  So while we say this is a drop in the bucket, Iran is being welcomed back into the international community in a very large way. 
 
And secondly, to the State Department, what – how do you reconcile Iran’s compliance with this with Iran’s other behaviors, including its behavior in Syria and in Lebanon? 
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Andrea, I’ll say a word on that.  I think [Senior Administration Official Three] is best placed to elaborate, but just the bottom line in any reports that you’re seeing the businesspeople so-called flocking to Tehran, I would just remind what we’ve already said, which is that activities that were sanction-able before remain sanction-able, and we are determined to implement our legislation fully.  So any businessperson who would be thinking about violating those provisions would be subject to the same sanctions under this implementation program as they – and the Joint Plan of Action as they were previously, and it wouldn’t be in their interest to do so.  And I think the other thing you can be sure of is that businesses will act in their self-interests and are not going to be doing things that will come at a great cost to them. 
 
So it should be absolutely clear to everyone that, as we already said in the intro to this call, Iran is not open for business.  The limited relief that has provided is very strictly laid out, very limited.  And the overwhelming majority of our sanctions on oil and banking and financial remain in place.  And again, I’ll defer to [Senior Administration Official Three] to elaborate, but nobody should misunderstand that point.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE:  Yeah.  The only thing I would add to those points is, when asked a similar question, Under Secretary Cohen responded, “Don’t test us.”  And I think that’s the bottom line.  We have already begun traveling and reaching out to foreign governments and financial institutions to explain to them what is covered by the JPOA, and more importantly, what is not covered by the JPOA.  And you will see us continue to enforce, in our very aggressive manner, all of the existing sanctions, for a simple reason: the sanctions pressure is what got Iran to the table, and it’s going to be critical for negotiating a comprehensive agreement.  And that’s a point that we and our international partners, I think, see eye-to-eye on.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL FOUR:  And Andrea, to your second question – this is [Senior Administration Official Four], I’m happy to jump in here, and if [Senior Administration Official One] has other thoughts – we’ve always said that the nuclear negotiations were totally separate from other issues.  We don’t discuss those other issues during the nuclear negotiations, and that’s why we’ve always said that the nuclear negotiations – even as we negotiate with Iran – we still, of course, remain incredibly concerned about their destabilizing activity in Syria, about their support for terrorism, about their human rights record.  That’s why those sanctions remain in place, and that’s why we speak up very forcefully on those other issues as well.  So we do see these as separate.  Obviously, we’re concerned about all of it.  But these negotiations are focused on the nuclear issue.  I don’t know if [Senior Administration Official One] has more to add on that, but --
 
 
QUESTION:  Can you talk a bit about how the current discussions with Congress are going over new sanctions legislation and whether anything that – any of the steps that you’re taking today are likely to change that standoff?  Thank you. 
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Well, maybe I can start.  I mean, the only thing I would say about it is the steps that we’re taking today shows that we are on track towards implementing this arrangement that gives us what we need, which is to say halting for the first time in more than a decade Iran’s progress towards nuclear weapons capability, and even rolling it back in some important ways like getting rid of all of its 20 percent.  So it just seems all the more clear to us that we should test the proposition that moving forward with this will give us in the end what we need, which is a comprehensive solution that gives us the assurance that Iran’s program is exclusively peaceful.
 
So while we’re making progress it would just not seem the time to move forward with something that would interrupt that progress.  That was – that has been our view during the negotiations of the Joint Plan of Action, and now that the IAEA has been able to confirm that Iran has actually started to implement these steps that halt and roll back its program, it would not seem a particularly wise time to take steps that we don’t need and that could interrupt the implementation of this important step forward.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL FOUR:  Yes, and this is [Senior Administration Official Four] again.  I’ll add to what [Senior Administration Official One] said, that we’ve been regularly briefing Congress.  Last week, Under Secretary Sherman briefed both Senate and House leadership and committee chairs on implementation of the Joint Plan of Action.  We have many more engagements with the Hill planned, whether it’s at the member level or staff level, to make sure they have all the information about the concrete, tangible, verifiable steps that Iran has taken here and what the plan is moving forward on comprehensive negotiations.
 
So our outreach to Congress is continued and consistent, and that I think is an important point to underscore – what [Senior Administration Official One] said, that because we’ve seen progress here, we have obviously much more work to go.  But that we don’t believe at this time that now that we have seen this progress, that we should do anything that might undermine it.  So that’s certainly the message we are continuing to press with Congress.
 
QUESTION:  Hey there, guys.  Thanks so much for doing the call.  Two questions, and with the apology that I missed the top of the call.  But could you guys comment on the decision of the UN to invite Iran to the Geneva II talks?  Also, could you expand a bit on how the aid to Iranian students is going to be disbursed?  Is this specifically for students who got scholarships from Iranian institutions to study abroad?  If you could just provide any context about that I would appreciate it.  Thank you.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  I’ll maybe let [Senior Administration Official Three] answer the question about students, and I’ll just address your question about Syria.  We really don’t want to turn this call into a long discussion of the Syria issue, but I would say that we’ve made our position quite clear on the Geneva II conference, which is that it is for countries that are firmly and clearly and publicly committed to implementing Geneva I and its agreement for a transitional governing body with full executive authority and so on.  And unless and until Iran meets that criterion, we don’t think it has a role to play at Geneva II.  So again, I don’t want to get us diverted.  I think we want to stick to our focus on Iran, but I would say this as well. 
 
As [Senior Administration Official Four] said a minute ago, we continue to have major concerns about various aspects of Iranian policy, including in Syria, and state support for terrorism and destabilizing activities in Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain and elsewhere in the region, and we will remain focused on those issues and determined to confront them.  But we are also determined not to let those concerns stand in the way of our national interest in taking steps to ensure that Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon. 
 
And so these are two separate tracks.  The discussion of whether Iran should be invited to Geneva II are entirely a separate issue from whether and how we are making forward on stopping the Iranian nuclear weapons program.  That’s what today’s agreement is about, and that’s what we’re going to stay focused on even as in other channels and other ways, we deal with other aspects of Iranian foreign policy.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE:  Yes, and this is [Senior Administration Official Three].  On the tuition side, the – under the JPOA, we’ve committed that up to $400 million of Iran’s own money can be directed through a financial channel that we will agree on to universities and colleges outside of Iran where Iranian students are currently studying.  This is to cover things like direct tuition assistance, but as you can hear, the funds are not to be provided to the students themselves; they’re to be made in direct payments to the colleges and universities themselves.
 
QUESTION:  My question is:  To what extent or how did you inform Israel about these – about this step today?  And how will that – how will talks with Israel on this process continue?
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Yeah, I can address that.  Thanks for that question.  We have been and remain and will remain in very close contact with the Israelis.  We have been all along.  In the past couple of weeks, we’ve done a number of secure videoconferences with Israeli counterparts to keep them informed about progress.  I’m actually going with some technical experts to Israel this week to continue those discussions so that they’re fully briefed on what we’re doing in this implementation or arrangement, and thinking about a comprehensive solution.  Israel obviously has a great interest in this and a great stake in it, and we are committed to working with them and working transparently with them because we have a common interest in preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon or obtaining a nuclear weapon.  So it has been extensive and it will continue to be extensive with our Israeli friends.
 
QUESTION:  So as Iran dilutes half of its 20 percent stockpile to 5 percent, how do you – how do the parties prevent a net increase in its 3.5 percent stockpile over time?  Can you explain that mechanism?
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO:  Yes, I can.  Iran is going to be continuing to produce enriched uranium up to 5 percent.  It’s also going to be diluting 20 percent UF6, as you said, down to 5 percent.  But the total amount – but they’re also committed, under the Joint Plan of Action, to convert all of the newly enriched uranium from UF6 to oxide, and there’s also a restriction that the total amount – after all these processes are finished, the total amount of UF6 enriched up to 5 percent will be less than 7,650 kilograms. 
 
So what this means is that all of the enriched uranium up to 5 percent over the next six months is going to be converted to oxide, and more than half of the up to 5 percent enriched uranium produced by diluting 20 percent is also going to be converted to oxide.
 
QUESTION:  First, there was a statement attributed today via Reuters to Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.  And he stated, and I’m quoting, “This suspension is temporary.  Those centrifuges that produce 20 percent uranium will continue to produce 5 percent uranium.  In other words, none of our centrifuges will be idle during the next six months.”  And I’m wondering if you can address that last statement that none of the Iranian centrifuges will be idle during the next six months, whether that is accurate or not.
 
And is it the American position going into these negotiations, or is it, in fact, up for negotiation that Iran shall not at the end of the six-month – if the negotiations are completed, that is part of the final status here, that Iran shall not be permitted indigenous use of its stockpiles of enriched uranium?  Thank you.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO:  Okay.  As far as your first question is concerned, Iran will not be feeding uranium into any more centrifuges than they have been since November 14th.  They can continue to enrich up to 5 percent.  The six cascades that have been making 20 percent enriched uranium, they actually will need some down time to be reconfigured and so forth.  But they will then be able to enrich up to 5 percent as well.
 
QUESTION:  Yeah.  My understanding was that some of – one – that part of the thinking of American negotiators heading into the talks that produced the November agreement was that one potential way to resolve this in final status was that Iran can continue to have its centrifuges, it can continue to have an enrichment program if you will, but that it just would not be permitted any indigenous use of its enriched uranium – rather, that that materiel would be exported and whatever enriched uranium needs Iran had, it would satisfy through the import of enriched uranium.  So in other words it would not be permitted indigenous use of any of its stockpile.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Well, you’re talking about the comprehensive solution, right, not over the next six months where what we’ve done is freeze it, and, as [Senior Administration Official Two], there’s a cap on the 3.5 percent stockpile that they’re going to be allowed to hold and a cap on the centrifuges.  You’re talking about as we negotiate a comprehensive solution, what sort of arrangement?
 
QUESTION:  Right.  Is it the position of the United States that there should be no indigenous use for its stockpiles, or is that something in fact you’re open to negotiating?
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Again, as far as indigenous use of stockpiles, I’m not clear on.  Obviously we would like, as an ideal arrangement, for Iran to have no enrichment capability and no stockpile.  The issue we have to explore in this set of negotiations is whether there is some possible enrichment capability and stockpile that would be consistent with the assurances we need that Iran is not in a position to develop a nuclear weapon without the international community having a long lead time and notice in advance.  And that’s something that we’re going to have to explore.  I think if you look at the Joint Plan of Action itself, it envisages the possibility of some limited enrichment program.  And as we move towards a comprehensive solution, what we’ll have to look at together with our P5+1 partners is whether there is one that is limited in such a way that gives us the assurances that we need.  That’s part of the point of what we’re trying to negotiate over the next six months.
 
MODERATOR:  Yep, and I would just add to that before we get to the next question that, as we’ve made clear throughout on the enrichment question and others, that on the comprehensive agreement, nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to, and all of our concerns have to be met in these negotiations.  We have to agree to all of this before we agree to any of it.  So I think I would reiterate that point.  It’s important to keep in mind as we start these next six months of negotiations.
 
QUESTION:  I talked with a former IAEA official, and he seemed to think it was a pretty big deal that there’s going to be more than double the number of inspectors in country since we haven’t had a real good look of what Iran has been doing in recent years.  Can someone speak to that issue of what we hope to gain by this new transparency and insight from the new inspectors?
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO:  The IAEA did actually say publicly this morning that they will be roughly doubling their staff resources to Iran.  They will be going more often to Natanz and Fordow.  They will be going to places they haven’t been before, or at least the places that they haven’t been recently, where centrifuges are assembled and where centrifuge rotors are produced.  So the IAEA will have more and better access, and this is an important addition from the Joint Plan of Action.
 
QUESTION: Can you detail what exact economic relief begins today?  I know how the 4.2 will be meted out in roughly half a billion dollars a month or sort of every three weeks.  But what happens today, this week?  How quickly does any of this kick in measurably?
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE:  Well, all of the sanctions relief areas that I ticked out, with the exception of the repatriation, begin today.  So in other words, the suspension – the temporary suspension of sanctions on their gold and precious metals, their imports of automotive parts and supplies, and their exports of petrochemicals, those are effective right now.  They went effective this morning upon the confirmation by the P5+1 of the steps that the IAEA verified.
 
So those are alive and will be for the six-month period so long as Iran continues to adhere to its commitment.  As you noted, the repatriation is scheduled to take place in installments across the six month period, with the final payment coming on the final day, the 180th day of the JPOA.
 
QUESTION:  Two questions: Olli Heinonen has said that at the end of this process, Iran could still enrich enough uranium for a nuclear weapon in three months.  Is that your estimation?  And can you tell us a little bit more about the channel for humanitarian trade, for students and so on?  I had been told that no American bank is going to be able to have direct dealings with an Iranian bank.  The Federal Reserve, that has an account for Iran, won’t be used.  How are you going to actually transfer funds legally from Iran for humanitarian purposes?  Thank you.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO:  Well, we are not at the end of this process.  We’re kind of in the early stages of this process.  This arrangement that we now have – not installing more centrifuges, not feeding centrifuges that are not now being fed – will keep the situation from getting worse.  When we do get to the end of this process with a comprehensive agreement, our goal is to have a very long timeline from a decision to actually being able to make enough enriched uranium for a weapon.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE:  And on the sanctions side, with respect to the humanitarian channel, we’ve engaged in some pretty detailed discussions with the Iranians and with other P5+1 partners with respect to these financial channels.  I am not and I can’t be detailing specific bank names that will be involved, and that would not be appropriate.  But I think we have a good deal of confidence that Iranian funds – and we’re not talking about funds in Iran because, as with all of their foreign imports, Iran finances these purchases from outside of Iran – but that Iran’s account outside of Iran will be usable for the purchase of legitimate humanitarian goods such as food, medicine and medical devices.  Those purchases, I would note, have continued over the last few years, notwithstanding the intensification of sanctions, and even in the U.S., where we have the toughest sanctions in the world, you’ve seen U.S. humanitarian exports to Iran climb over the last few years.
 
So those sanctions have not disrupted humanitarian sales to Iran, but we’ve committed and we are working to facilitate the financial aspect so that the payments can flow in more, I would say, dedicated channels pursuant to careful oversight.
 
QUESTION:  Can you just describe – I know there’s a timeline for the release of all of these funds.  Is there a similar timeline for the 20 percent or near 20 percent enriched material to be diluted?  If you could just elaborate on that.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO:  Yeah.  The timeline for dilution of 20 percent enriched uranium, they are to finish that within three months.  And the timeline for conversion of 20 percent enriched uranium, the timeline for that is within six months.
 
QUESTION:  Were you guys actually unaware that the UN was going to invite Iran to Geneva II?  It seems like the tone of your statements has been indicating that this was – that this blindsided the U.S., that – I – it just seems a little odd that you wouldn’t have had prior knowledge.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Yeah, just to reiterate what I said before, we’ve been clear with all of the parties and publicly that anyone invited would need to publicly and clearly state their support for Geneva I.  We’ve been clear with the UN and all the participants about that, and that remains our position now.
 
State Department Media Note: Implementation of the Joint Plan of Action from November 24, 2013 in Geneva Between the P5+1 and The Islamic Republic of Iran and Provision of Limited, Temporary, and Targeted Sanctions Relief
 
These actions implement U.S. commitments under the Joint Plan of Action, which is designed as a first step toward a peaceful and comprehensive solution to international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.
 
On November 24, 2013, the United States and its partners in the P5+1 reached an initial understanding with Iran that halts progress on its nuclear program and rolls it back in key respects.  As outlined in a Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), this initial understanding includes the first meaningful limits on Iran’s nuclear program in close to a decade.  In return for these important steps to constrain Iran’s nuclear program, the P5+1 committed to provide Iran with limited, targeted, and reversible sanctions relief for a six-month period.
 
Today, the IAEA verified that Iran has fulfilled its initial nuclear commitments pursuant to the JPOA.  Accordingly, the Administration has taken the necessary steps to pause efforts to further reduce Iranian crude oil exports, allowing the six current customers of Iranian oil to maintain their purchases at current reduced levels for the duration of the JPOA.  In addition, the Administration is working with its partners and Iran to establish financial channels to enable Iran to make payments for humanitarian transactions and medical expenses, university tuition payments for Iranian students studying abroad, and the payment of Iran’s United Nations obligations.
 
Further, the Administration took the necessary actions to suspend for the duration of the JPOA sanctions on non-U.S. persons engaged in transactions related to Iran’s petrochemical exports, certain trade in gold and precious metals with Iran, and the provision of goods and services to Iran’s automotive sector.  In addition, the United States government will license transactions for spare parts, inspections, and associated services necessary for safety of flight for certain Iranian aviation.  To qualify for relief under the sanctions suspension, these transactions must be initiated and completed during the JPOA period.  More details on these suspensions can be found in the guidance published today: http://www.state.gov/p/nea/rls/220049.htm..
 
The JPOA and associated sanctions suspensions will be in force for six months.  This includes allowing Iran access to a limited sum of its funds restricted abroad, allocated in installments over the next six months.  All sanctions relief is contingent upon Iran’s continuing adherence to the nuclear steps outlined in the initial understanding in Geneva and detailed in the technical commitments made subsequently.  If it is determined that Iran has failed to meet these commitments, the United States Government, will revoke this limited sanctions relief.
 
As the United States and our partners in the P5+1 explore the possibility of a long-term, comprehensive agreement that would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and provide confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful, the Administration will continue to fully enforce all sanctions not explicitly suspended in this first step, including the comprehensive U.S. embargo and sanctions affecting Iran’s ability to sell oil and access the international financial system.
 
U.S. Treasury Department: Implementation of the Joint Plan of Action from November 24, 2013 in Geneva between the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran and Provision of Limited, Temporary, and Targeted Sanctions Relief
 
These actions implement U.S. commitments under the Joint Plan of Action, which is designed as a first step toward a peaceful and comprehensive solution to international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.
 
WASHINGTON - On November 24, 2013, the United States and its partners in the P5+1 reached an initial understanding with Iran that halts progress on its nuclear program and rolls it back in key respects.  As outlined in a Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), this initial understanding includes the first meaningful limits on Iran’s nuclear program in close to a decade.  In return for these important steps to constrain Iran’s nuclear program, the P5+1 committed to provide Iran with limited, targeted, and reversible sanctions relief for a six-month period.
 
Today, the IAEA verified that Iran has fulfilled its initial nuclear commitments pursuant to the JPOA.  Accordingly, the Administration has taken the necessary steps to pause efforts to further reduce Iranian crude oil exports, allowing the six current customers of Iranian oil to maintain their purchases at current reduced levels for the duration of the JPOA.  In addition, the Administration is working with its partners and Iran to establish financial channels to enable Iran to make payments for humanitarian transactions and medical expenses, university tuition payments for Iranian students studying abroad, and the payment of Iran’s United Nations obligations.
 
Further, the Administration took the necessary actions to suspend for the duration of the JPOA sanctions on non-U.S. persons engaged in transactions related to Iran’s petrochemical exports, certain trade in gold and precious metals with Iran, and the provision of goods and services to Iran’s automotive sector.  In addition, the United States government will license transactions for spare parts, inspections, and associated services necessary for safety of flight for certain Iranian aviation.  To qualify for relief under the sanctions suspension, these transactions must be initiated and completed during the JPOA period.  More details on these suspensions can be found in the guidance published today: 
 
The JPOA and associated sanctions suspensions will be in force for six months.  This includes allowing Iran access to a limited sum of its funds restricted abroad, allocated in installments over the next six months.  All sanctions relief is contingent upon Iran’s continuing adherence to the nuclear steps outlined in the initial understanding in Geneva and detailed in the technical commitments made subsequently.  If it is determined that Iran has failed to meet these commitments, the United States Government will revoke this limited sanctions relief.
 
As the United States and our partners in the P5+1 explore the possibility of a long-term, comprehensive agreement that would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and provide confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful, the Administration will continue to fully enforce all sanctions not explicitly suspended in this first step, including the comprehensive U.S. embargo and sanctions affecting Iran’s ability to sell oil and access the international financial system.
 
Statement by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on the Implementation of the Joint Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program
 
Today, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran has taken the initial specific steps it committed to on or by January 20th, as part of the Joint Plan of Action between the P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China, coordinated by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton), and Iran.  As a result, implementation of the Joint Plan of Action will begin today. 
 
Specifically, the IAEA has verified in a written report and subsequent briefing for P5+1 technical experts, that Iran has, among other things, stopped producing 20% enriched uranium, has disabled the configuration of the centrifuge cascades Iran has been using to produce it, has begun diluting its existing stockpile of 20% enriched uranium, and has not installed additional centrifuges at Natanz or Fordow.  These actions represent the first time in nearly a decade that Iran has verifiably enacted measures to halt progress on its nuclear program, and roll it back in key respects.  Iran has also begun to provide the IAEA with increased transparency into the Iranian nuclear program, through more frequent and intrusive inspections and the expanded provision of information to the IAEA.  Taken together, these concrete actions represent an important step forward.
 
In reciprocation for Iran's concrete actions, the United States and its P5+1 partners - the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China, as well as the European Union -  will today follow through on our commitment to begin to provide the modest relief agreed to with Iran.  At the same time, we will continue our aggressive enforcement of the sanctions measures that will remain in place throughout this six-month period.
 
Following the actions taken today, the P5+1, EU, and Iran will also begin the process of negotiating a long-term, comprehensive solution that seeks to address the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear program.  The United States remains committed to using strong and disciplined diplomacy to reach a peaceful resolution that will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. 
 
International Atomic Energy Agency: Status of Iran’s Nuclear Programme in relation to the Joint Plan of Action
Report by the Director General
 
1. As foreshadowed in the Director General’s report on the Monitoring and Verification in the
Islamic Republic of Iran in relation to the Joint Plan of Action (GOV/2014/2), the purpose of this
report is to provide information on the status of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s (Iran’s) nuclear
programme in relation to the “voluntary measures” that Iran has agreed to undertake, as of
20 January 2014, as part of the Joint Plan of Action (JPA).
 
2. The Agency confirms that, as of 20 January 2014, Iran:
• has ceased enriching uranium above 5% U-235 at the two cascades at the Pilot Fuel
Enrichment Plant (PFEP) and four cascades at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP)
previously used for this purpose;
• has ceased operating cascades in an interconnected configuration at PFEP and FFEP;
• has begun diluting UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 at PFEP;
• is continuing the conversion of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 into U3O8 at the Fuel Plate
Fabrication Plant (FPFP);
• has no process line to reconvert uranium oxides enriched up to 20% U-235 back into UF6
enriched up to 20% U-235 at FPFP;
• is not conducting any further advances to its activities at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant,
FFEP or the Arak reactor (IR-40), including the manufacture and testing of fuel for the IR-40
reactor;
• is continuing to construct the Enriched UO2 Powder Plant for the conversion of UF6 enriched
up to 5% U-235 into oxide;
• is continuing its safeguarded R&D practices at PFEP, including its current enrichment R&D
practices, and continues not to use them for the accumulation of enriched uranium; and
• is not carrying out reprocessing related activities at the Tehran Research Reactor and the
Molybdenum, Iodine and Xenon Radioisotope Production (MIX) Facility.
 
3. The Agency can also confirm that it has received written communications from Iran in relation
to the “voluntary measures” that Iran has agreed to undertake in the first six months as part of the JPA,
as follows:
• a letter from Iran dated 18 January 2014 stating that “for the first step time-bound (six
months), there will be no new location for enrichment other than those already existing at the
Fordow and Natanz sites”;
• a letter from Iran dated 18 January 2014 stating that “during the first step time-bound (six
months), Iran will not engage in stages of reprocessing activities, or construction of a facility
capable of reprocessing”;
• a letter from Iran dated 18 January 2014 stating that “during the first step of time-bound (six
months), Iran declares that there is no reconversion line to reconvert uranium oxide enriched
up to 20% U-235 back into UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235”; and
• a letter from Iran dated 20 January 2014, enclosing information on centrifuge assembly
workshops, storage facilities and centrifuge rotor production workshops.
 
4. The Agency and Iran have also agreed on arrangements for increased access by Agency
inspectors to the nuclear facilities at Natanz and Fordow, including in relation to weekends and holidays in Iran.
 
The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission, issued the following statement today:
 
"Following up to the Joint Plan of Action agreed between the E3/EU+3 and Iran in November in Geneva, we have today decided to begin the implementation of a six-month phase of initial confidence-building measures aimed at addressing international concerns about Iran's nuclear activities.
 
Today, Iran has implemented the nuclear-related measures agreed in the Joint Plan of Action, and Foreign Ministers of the EU adopted the necessary legislation to suspend the EU measures set out in the Joint Plan of Action for a period of six months. The suspension of these sanctions will enter into force today.
 
Over the coming six months, proper implementation of the agreed measures will be key.
 
This is an important first step, but more work will be needed to fully address the international community's concerns regarding the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear programme. We aim to start negotiations about a comprehensive solution with Iran in February."
 
Michael Mann
Spokesperson for HR/VP Ashton
 
 

Iran to Attend Syria Peace Talks

            On January 19, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announced that Iran had been invited to join the peace talks on Syria. The following is his statement, followed by a comment from the State Department.

U.N. Secretary General's Press Stakeout
 
      Ladies and Gentlemen, Good evening.
      Tomorrow I depart for Montreux for the Geneva Conference on Syria.  The Conference is our long-awaited chance to end the violence and begin putting the country back together.
I welcome the decision by the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Armed Forces to participate.  I look forward to seeing an inclusive opposition delegation.
      Over the past 48 hours, I have had a series of intensive meetings and telephone conversations with many global leaders and others who are part of the diplomacy aimed at helping Syria to regain the path of peace.
            I have been striving to generate momentum and to create the best possible atmosphere for the success of this crucially important undertaking.
            Further to these discussions, I have decided to issue some additional invitations to the one-day gathering in Montreux.  They are: Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Greece, the Holy See, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, and Iran. I believe the expanded international presence on that day will be an important and useful show of solidarity in advance of the hard work that the Syrian Government and opposition delegations will begin two days later in Geneva.
            As I have said repeatedly, I believe strongly that Iran needs to be part of the solution to the Syrian crisis.
            I have spoken at length in recent days with Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Javad Zarif.  He has assured me that, like all the other countries invited to the opening day discussions in Montreux, Iran understands that the basis of the talks is the full implementation of the 30 June 2012 Geneva Communique, including the Action Plan.
            Foreign Minister Zarif and I agree that the goal of the negotiations is to establish, by mutual consent, a transitional governing body with full executive powers.  It was on that basis that Foreign Minister Zarif pledged that Iran would play a positive and constructive role in Montreux.
            Therefore, as convenor and host of the conference, I have decided to issue an invitation to Iran to participate.
            After nearly three years of devastation, and after many months of discussions about the conference, it is now time for the Syrian parties, the region and the international community to unite behind a political solution based on the Geneva Communique.
            I call on all those who come to Montreux to act in good faith.
            Let me be clear – Montreux is not a venue for negotiations. The Syrian parties themselves will begin that process in Geneva on 24 January.
            In Montreux, we are gathering countries and organizations to show their solidarity with this process and of course with the Syrian people, who have suffered so much.
            I especially appeal to the Syrian parties themselves to keep one goal in mind: the end of the suffering of the Syrian people and the beginning of a transition to a new Syria.
 
Statement by Jen PSAKI, SPOKESPERSON
U.N. Secretary General’s Invitation to Iran to Attend Geneva II
 
      The United States views the UN Secretary General’s invitation to Iran to attend the upcoming Geneva conference as conditioned on Iran’s explicit and public support for the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué including the establishment of a transitional governing body by mutual consent with full executive authorities. This is something Iran has never done publicly and something we have long made clear is required.
      We also remain deeply concerned about Iran's contributions to the Assad regime's brutal campaign against its own people, which has contributed to the growth of extremism and instability in the region. If Iran does not fully and publicly accept the Geneva communiqué, the invitation must be rescinded. 

Photo credit: Gobierno de Chile (Gira internacional USA) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons, US Department of State (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/209549.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
 

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