United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Key Issues in Dispute on Nuke Deal

Conflicting interpretations crystallized over terms in the proposed nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers within days of the April 2 announcement. Washington and Tehran seem to have differing views on sanctions relief, advanced centrifuges, and international inspections. With talks set to resume April 21, negotiators from the seven nations face three months of potentially tough talks to work out their differences.
 
Divergent views became apparent after Iranian officials began criticizing details in the four-page factsheet released by the White House after the negotiations. In response, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran has prepared its own fact sheet. But the foreign ministry has yet to publish it. The following are excerpted remarks from officials that illustrate the disputes on key issues.
 

Sanctions

Sanctions relief is the most contentious issue between Washington and Tehran. Iranian officials are calling for immediate and permanent sanctions relief. But U.S. officials claim that sanctions relief will be gradual, and that sanctions can be “snapped back into place” if Iran violates the terms of the agreement.

Iran

“On the basis of this framework, all sanctions in financial, economic and banking sectors as well as all (UN Security Council) sanctions resolutions against Iran will be canceled on the very first day of the implementation of the deal, and new cooperation in both nuclear and other sectors will start with the world on the same day.”
—President Hassan Rouhani, in a speech on April 3
 
“All Security Council resolutions will be terminated. All U.S. nuclear-related secondary sanctions as well as E.U. sanctions will be terminated…the effect of which will be, when we implement our measures, there won't be no sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, April 2, in a statement
 
 

United States

“In return for Iran’s future cooperation, we and our international partners will provide relief in phases from the sanctions that have impacted Iran’s economy.  And if we find at any point that Iran is not complying with this agreement, the sanctions can snap back into place.”
 
“The question of the sanctions…remains one of the issues of the timing – the exact timing and the exact process associated with it remains one of those issues that is going to be negotiated over the course of the next three months.  The commitment is to lift the economic and financial sanctions on the occasion of what I mentioned earlier on the nuclear side.  Beyond that, UN sanctions, others with respect to ballistic missile embargo, et cetera, those remain for negotiation.”
— Secretary of State John Kerry, in a statement on April 2
 
“In return for Iran’s actions, the international community has agreed to provide Iran with relief from certain sanctions -- our own sanctions, and international sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.  This relief will be phased as Iran takes steps to adhere to the deal.  If Iran violates the deal, sanctions can be snapped back into place.  Meanwhile, other American sanctions on Iran for its support of terrorism, its human rights abuses, its ballistic missile program, will continue to be fully enforced.”
— President Barack Obama, in a statement on April 2
 

Advanced Centrifuges

Washington and Tehran also disagree on the type of centrifuges Iran is allowed to use to enrich uranium. Zarif and Atomic Energy Organization head Ali Akbar Salehi reportedly told the Iranian parliament that Iran would begin operating IR-8 centrifuges, an advanced model that enriches uranium at a faster rate. The United States, however, has indicated that Iran will not be permitted to use advanced centrifuges for at least ten years.

Iran

"The AEOI chief and the foreign minister presented hopeful remarks about nuclear technology R&D which, they said, have been agreed upon during the talks (with the six world powers), and informed that gas will be injected into IR8 (centrifuge machines) with the start of the (implementation of the) agreement."
—Javad Karimi Qoddousi, member of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, following a closed-door session with Zarif and Ali Akbar Salehi
 
"The negotiators should include use of the 8th generation of centrifuges (IR-8) in the final agreement."
—Head of parliament's nuclear committee Ebrahim Karkhaneyee, in the press on April 8
 

United States

"Iran will not enrich uranium with its advanced centrifuges for at least the next 10 years."
— President Barack Obama, in a statement on April 2

“Iran will not use its IR-2, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, or IR-8 models to produce enriched uranium for at least ten years. Iran will engage in limited research and development with its advanced centrifuges, according to a schedule and parameters which have been agreed to by the P5+1.”
— White House fact sheet, released April 2
 

Inspections

Iran opposes any international inspections that would allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to its military facilities. “Foreign monitoring on Iran’s security isn’t allowed,” said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. U.S. officials have not explicitly stated that inspections would include military facilities, but President Obama claimed inspectors would have "unprecedented access" to nuclear sites and any part of the "supply chain" that supports Iran's nuclear program. The U.S. factsheet emphasizes that inspectors will be able to investigate any "suspicious sites" of alleged covert enrichment activities and investigate possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program.
 
Iran

 

 

"Iran's military sites cannot be inspected under the excuse of nuclear supervision."
—Khamenei, in a speech on April 9
 
“Visiting military centers is among our redlines and no such visit will be accepted.”
Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan, in the press on April 9
 
United States
 
“Iran will be required to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.”
— White House fact sheet, released April 2
 
JUDY WOODRUFF: The president has said these will be the most intrusive inspections, robust inspections ever. Others have said it’ll be anywhere, anytime. The Iranians are saying no, it won’t be on military bases and there are going to be limits. Which is it?
 
JOHN KERRY: We’re going to have a very robust inspection system. We have a means-of-dispute resolution that will permit us to be able to resolve questions if there are any unresolved issues of access. They have agreed to abide by what is called the additional protocol of the nonproliferation treaty. That protocol requires participating states to adhere to a higher standard and if they don’t, Judy, then the sanctions can, and will, come back. For a certain number of years that will happen automatically, but I can assure you that if Iran were then to suddenly move to try to advance this program beyond what would be normal for a peaceful nuclear power, the whole world will respond just as we have now and sanctions would be re-imposed.

— Secretary of State John Kerry, in a PBS interview on April 8

“We have agreed that Iran will face regular and comprehensive inspections, which is the best possible way to detect any attempt to covertly produce a weapon.  Not only will inspectors have regular access to all of Iran’s declared facilities indefinitely, but they will also be able to monitor the facilities that produce the centrifuges themselves and the uranium that supports the nuclear program.  And they will be able to do that for at least 20 years.”
— Secretary of State John Kerry, in a statement on April 2
 
“International inspectors will have unprecedented access not only to Iranian nuclear facilities, but to the entire supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program -- from uranium mills that provide the raw materials, to the centrifuge production and storage facilities that support the program.  If Iran cheats, the world will know it.  If we see something suspicious, we will inspect it.  Iran’s past efforts to weaponize its program will be addressed.  With this deal, Iran will face more inspections than any other country in the world.”
— President Barack Obama, in a statement on April 2
 

 

Congress Acts: Corker Bill on Iran

On April 14, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved a bill that would require Congress to review and then vote on a final nuclear deal with Iran. If the full Senate and House of Representatives approve the “Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015,” President Barack Obama would not be permitted to waive economic sanctions on Iran as part of a deal for at least 30 days during the initial review period.

“Despite opposition from the White House all along, I am proud of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s unanimous support of this bill that will ensure the American people – through their elected representatives – will have a voice on any final deal with Iran, if one is reached,” said Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker (R-TN). For months, Corker has called for Congressional weigh-in, arguing that sanctions passed by lawmakers brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place. He coauthored the legilsation with Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Tim Kaine (D-VA).
 
The White House initially threatened to veto the bill, arguing that curbing the president’s powers could negatively impact negotiations. But President Obama backed off after the review period was shortened and the committee dropped the requirement for the president to certify that Iran has not been supporting or carrying out terrorist attacks against the United States or its citizens. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) played a key role in brokering the compromise between the Obama administration, Democrats and Republicans. The 19-0 vote suggested that the Senate likely has a veto-proof majority.
 
The following is a summary of the bill released by Senator Corker’s office.
 
Congressional Review: Within five days of concluding a comprehensive agreement with Iran, the president must submit to Congress (1) the text of the agreement and all related materials, (2) a verification assessment on Iranian compliance, and (3) a certification that the agreement meets U.S. non-proliferation objectives and does not jeopardize U.S. national security, including not allowing Iran to pursue nuclear-related military activities.
 
No Suspension of Congressional Sanctions During Review Period: The president is prohibited from suspending, waiving or otherwise reducing congressional sanctions for up to 52 days after submitting the agreement to Congress. Following an initial review period of 30 days, the legislation includes an additional 12 if Congress passes a bill and sends it to the president. If the president vetoes the legislation, Congress would have an additional 10 days to override a veto. If the deal is submitted after July 9, the review period increases to 82 days (60 days plus 12 days for the president to veto and 10 more days for Congress to override a veto). During this period, Congress may hold hearings and approve, disapprove or take no action on the agreement. Passage of a joint resolution of disapproval (over a presidential veto) within the review period would block the president from implementing congressional sanctions relief under the agreement.
 
Congressional Oversight and Iranian Compliance: After the congressional review period, the president would be required to provide an assessment to Congress every 90 days on Iran’s compliance with the agreement. In the event the president cannot certify compliance, or if the president determines there has been a material breach of the agreement, Congress could vote, on an expedited basis, to restore sanctions that had been waived or suspended under the agreement. It also requires the president to make a series of detailed reports to Congress on a range of issues, including Iran’s nuclear program, its ballistic missiles work, and its support for terrorism globally, particularly against Americans and our allies. With this information, Congress will be able to determine the appropriate response in the event of Iran sponsoring an act of terrorism against Americans.
 
The legislation was coauthored by Senators Corker, Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.). Cosponsors of the bill include Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Bill Nelson (D- Fla.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Angus King (I-Maine), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Dean Heller (R-NV), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.).
 
Click here for the full text of the bill.  
 

US Concerned About Russian Missile Deal

On April 13, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree lifting a ban on the sale of advanced S-300 air defense missile systems to Iran. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the embargo was no longer necessary given progress in nuclear talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers.  “We believe that at this stage there is no longer need for this kind of embargo - from the Russian side it was unilateral and voluntary,” he said.

Tehran welcomed the move while Washington and Tel Aviv expressed concern.Given Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region in places like Yemen or Syria or Lebanon that this isn’t the time to be selling these kinds of systems to them,” State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf said.
 
Moscow originally imposed the ban and cancelled a $800 million contract to supply the systems to Iran in 2010 after it supported a U.N. Security Council resolution that imposed sanctions on Iran and restricted the arms trade. Iran hopes to receive the missile systems by the end of the year. But a top adviser to Putin told Interfax that delivery of the missile system “will take some time.” The timing for delivery “depends on our manufacturers. I think it will be a minimum of half a year to finish the work,” said Nikolai Patrushev. The following are excerpted remarks on the deal by Russian, Iranian, U.S. and Israeli officials.
 
Russia
 

 
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
 
The world’s six major powers and Iran made “substantial progress in resolving the Iranian nuclear program [dispute]. The political framework of the final deal agreed upon was highly praised by the international community.”
 
“We believe that at this stage there is no longer need for this kind of embargo - from the Russian side it was unilateral and voluntary.”
 
“Meanwhile, a modern air defense system is now very relevant to Iran, especially taking into account the severe escalation of tensions in neighboring areas and especially the rapid development of military activity in Yemen in recent weeks.”
 
The system “will not put at risk the security of any state in the region, including Israel.”
—April 13, 2015 in a press conference
 
Iran
 
Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani
 
“I hope that the anti-missile defense systems will be delivered by the end of the year and, naturally, as soon as the systems are delivered to Iran, the case [against Russia] will be dropped.”
 
“Great strategic possibilities exist in the relations between Russia and Iran.”
—April 14, 2015 according to Sputnik and Interfax
 
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
 
“We welcome the right decision by President Putin to move forward... I think it is a step in the right direction and we are looking forward to expanding our relations.”
—April 14, 2015 at a press conference in Madrid, Spain
 
United States
 
State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf
 
MS HARF: Well, we’ve certainly made our concerns with the sale of the S-300 system to Iran known for some time.  This certainly isn’t new.  The Secretary raised those concerns in a call with Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning.  We don’t believe it’s constructive at this time for Russia to move forward with this, but we’ve worked very closely with the Russians on the P5+1 negotiations.  We don’t think this will have an impact on unity in terms of inside the negotiating room.  So they did discuss it, discussed the Iran negotiations in general as well, and I don’t have more of a readout for you than that.
 
QUESTION:  Okay.  Is it the Administration’s position that the S-300s, the transfer of them to Iran would violate existing sanctions?
 
MS HARF:  In terms of UN Security Council sanctions, it’s my understanding that it would not.
And we think given Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region in places like Yemen or Syria or Lebanon that this isn’t the time to be selling these kinds of systems to them.  So in general, that’s what our concerns are based on. And we have concerns about things separate and apart from whether they would be a violation of Security Council sanctions.
—April 13, 2015 in a press briefing
 
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest
 
QUESTION: The Kremlin has said that Putin has lifted a ban on providing anti-missile rocket systems to Iran.  This is also coming as Russia seems to be prepared to supply grain and other equipment in an oil-for-goods swap with Iran that may position them to have kind of a head start when and if sanctions are lifted.  Is the President -- has he been briefed on this?  What is his response?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, Julia, we’ve seen those reports as they relate to the possible sale of the S-300 anti-ballistic missile system to Iran.  The United States has previously made known our objections to that sale, and I understand that Secretary Kerry had an opportunity to raise these concerns once again in a recent conversation with his Russian counterpart, Mr. Lavrov.
 
I’m not in a position to, obviously, speculate on the decision-making process that Russia is engaged in right now, but I do think it’s safe to say that Russia understands that the United States certainly takes very seriously the safety and security of our allies in the region. 
 
As it relates to the other oil-for-goods discussion, this is something that has been -- this is a discussion that has been underway for several months now, and we’ve obviously been aware that there are proposals involving Russia and Iran to, essentially, barter Iranian oil for Russian goods.  We’re studying the details, and if this sort of arrangement were to move forward it would raise serious concerns and even could potentially raise sanctions concerns.  So we’re going to continue to evaluate that moving forward as well.
 
QUESTION: Could it endanger finalizing a deal by the end of June?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, one of the things that we have indicated has been critical to our success in this diplomatic process has been the unity of the international community.  And the United States and our partners in Europe have been able to work closely with both Russia and China to bring Iran to the negotiating table by putting in place and enforcing tough sanctions, and engaging in a negotiating position that has succeeded in getting Iran to make serious commitments about limitations and, in some cases, even rolling back specific elements of their nuclear program. 
 
So we value the coordination and unity that we have been able to maintain throughout this rather long process.  In fact, we recently even saw that an official from the foreign ministry in Russia indicated that the U.S. document outlining the parameters of the agreement with Iran was consistent and did reflect the agreement that was reached at the table.  And again, that underscores the kind of unity around the specific agreement that we believe has been critical to our success.
 
We’ll obviously evaluate these two other proposals moving forward.  And obviously we have been in direct touch with Russia to make sure that they understand -- and they do -- the potential concerns we have.
—April 13, 2015 in a press briefing
 
Israel
 
Benjamin Netanyahu
 
“The sale of advanced weapons to Iran is the result of the dangerous agreement that is emerging between Iran and the [six world] powers.
 
“After this arms deal [for the S-300] is there anyone who can seriously claim that the [framework] agreement with Iran will increase the security in the Middle East.”
—April 14, 2015 in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin
 
Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz
 
“At a time when Iran denies clause after clause of the agreement declared last week, the international community has already begun easing its sanctions.
 
“This is a direct result of the legitimacy that Iran is receiving from the nuclear deal that is being prepared, and proof that the Iranian economic growth which follows the lifting of sanctions will be exploited for arming itself and not for the welfare of the Iranian people.
“Instead of demanding that Iran desist from the terrorist activity that it is carrying out in the Middle East and throughout the world, it is being allowed to arm itself with advanced weapons that will only increase its aggression.”
—April 13, 2015 in a statement
 
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon
 
The Iran-Russia deal is “something we have been warning about even before the details [of the agreement] were concluded. It was clear, even then, that sanctions will be lifted, and that of course this will influence and strengthen the Iranian economy.
 
“This issue was not discussed at all [during nuclear talks with Iran], and this is one of the biggest holes in the agreement. It is outside of the framework agreement, and this is certainly very disturbing. I hope that there will be time in the coming months to fix this.
 
“We continue to warn about the bad agreement that is developing with Iran, which does not include terrorism, missile components, or the military dimension of the Iranian nuclear project. Hence, we are against this bad agreement.”

—April 14, 2015 in a statement

Obama and Abadi: On Iran Role in Iraq

On April 14, President Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi held talks at the White House. During a photo op, Obama answered a question about Iran’s role in Iraq. The following is an excerpt of his remarks.

QUESTION: Mr. President, in terms of Iran’s involvement in Iraq -- are you comfortable with the level of coordination that’s been going on with Iran, even if it’s through a third party?
 
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  This is something that we discussed extensively.  I think that, as I’ve said before and I will repeat, we expect Iran to have an important relationship with Iraq as a close neighbor.  And obviously the fact that Iraq is a Shia-majority country means that it will be influenced and have relations with Iran as well.  And at the point in which Daesh or ISIL was surging and the Iraqi government was still getting organized at that point, I think the mobilization of Shia militias was something that was understood to protect Baghdad or other critical areas. 
 
Once Prime Minister Abadi took power, once he reorganized the government and the security forces, once the coalition came in at the invitation of and in an agreement with a sovereign Iraqi government, then our expectation is from that point on, any foreign assistance that is helping to defeat ISIL has to go through the Iraqi government.  That’s how you respect Iraqi sovereignty. That’s how you recognize the democratic government that was hard-earned and is being upheld in the work that Prime Minister Abadi is doing in reaching out to all the various factions inside of Iraq.
 
And so I think Prime Minister Abadi’s position has been that he welcomes help, as you just heard, but it needs to be help that is not simply coordinated with the Iraqi government but ultimately is answerable to the Iraqi government and is funneled through the chain of command within the Iraqi government.  And that’s what we’ve been very careful to do.  I’ve made clear from the outset that ISIL was an enemy and we will make sure that they do not threaten the United States and we will go after them wherever they are.  But when we are working with a strong ally and partner like Iraq, it is very important for us to coordinate our activities so that the impression is not that the United States is somehow moving back into Iraq, but rather the United States is doing what’s ultimately best for the Iraqi people, even as we join in fighting a common enemy.
 
And that’s why Prime Minister Abadi’s clear statement, both inside of Iraq and to the world community, that it is important for all fighting forces to be under unified control of the Iraqi government is so important.  And I think it’s particularly significant that that view is shared among a wide range of political parties inside of Iraq and was echoed by Grand Ayatollah Sistani just recently.  It sends a clear message that ultimately Iraq is in control of its own destiny.  And part of that means that those who possess arms and have the ability to apply force and defend their country have to be under a single government. 
 
As Prime Minister Abadi mentioned, that's particularly important in order to ensure that the government is accountable for the actions of armed forces so that if there are criminal acts or sectarian retributions that are carried out, that ultimately Prime Minister Abadi is able to call those forces to account and to control them, to make sure that you don't have a backlash as consequence of the efforts to clear territory from ISIL’s control.
 
So our coordination I think has consistently improved over time as Prime Minister Abadi has gained greater control over Iraqi security forces.  As the training efforts and equipping efforts that we're engaged in continue to improve, coordinating how our air power can support and expand into a more effective Iraqi security force deployment is going to continue to be critical.  But none of this works unless there is a perception among all the parties involved -- Shia, Sunni, Kurd, and others inside of Iraq -- that this is an inclusive government that is listening to the voices of all the people and including them in decision-making.  And the fact that Prime Minister Abadi is doing that makes our job and the coalition’s job of coordination much easier.
 

Iran Wins in U.S. – at Wrestling

On April 12, Iran’s national wrestling team beat the U.S. squad 5-3 to win the 2015 Freestyle Wrestling World Cup. It was Iran’s sixth time taking the title and its fourth consecutive victory. A congratulatory message was posted on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s Twitter account soon after the match.

The competition was held in Los Angeles, California, which is home to a large community of Iranian expatriates. Iranian fans reportedly made up more than half of the 4,234 spectators at The Forum and cheered so loudly that the Iranian team may have had “the sense of a home-mat advantage,” according to the Orange County Register.
 
As an individual, American Olympic gold medalist and two-time World champion Jordan Burroughs performed well. But his 10-0 victory over Iran’s Morteza Rezaei Ghaleh was not enough to turn the match around. “There aren’t a lot of times you beat an Iranian 10-0, so it was a great win,” he said. “They were giving it to us, they were relentless. They’ve got bells, whistles,” Burroughs told the Register. The following is a roundup of coverage of the event.
 

 

Click here for the full results of the match.
 

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