United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

White House Opens Iran Deal Twitter Account

After Iran and the world's six major powers reached a final nuclear deal on July 14, the White House launched a Twitter account, @TheIranDeal, dedicated to promoting and disseminating information on the agreement. The following are a sample of tweets from the account.


Iran Tries to Sell Nuclear Deal

Iranian officials involved in the nuclear negotiations are trying to sell the final deal at home, particularly to lawmakers. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif framed the agreement as a win for Iran during his remarks to parliament on July 21. “For 12 years, great powers have tried to prevent an Iranian nuclear program. But today they should tolerate thousands of centrifuges spinning, plus the continuation of research and development,” Zarif said. “This shows our power.”

Iran’s parliament has the constitutional right to review and vote on the deal, but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on nuclear issues. The Iranian parliament formed a committee to study the final nuclear deal and will wait 80 days before voting on the agreement. Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress has 60 days to review the deal.
The following are excerpted remarks from Iranian officials on the deal.
President Hassan Rouhani
“Even in a football game, when we say we won the game it means we scored three goals and received two. But some folks may come and say that we could have used other opportunities to score more goals. We have to take our opponent in consideration, it is easy to sit and watch the game and demand more."
U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 “is an unprecedented event in the history of the Islamic republic of Iran. Iran's goal was to attain its legal right to enrich uranium and today, the UNSC has explicitly accepted this."
"We were in a [football] field where our diplomats were on one side, and on the other, the six world powers were present. In this competition, the referee favored the other side; we won this competition."
—July 22, 2015, in a cabinet meeting
"The other side claims that based on the agreement, Iran will not be able to acquire the atomic bomb in less than one year, which is a ridiculous claim because the Iranian nation has never been after the Weapons of Destruction (WMDs) and believes that such a quest is against the codes of ethics, religious jurisprudence and the fatwa (religious decree) of Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution (Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei).”
"They have accepted ... that the sanctions have had no impacts on the Islamic Republic of Iran, and that they should give them up. All bodies who had approved Resolutions against Iran, have today annulled them, and this deserves paramount importance."
—July 22, 2015, in a cabinet meeting
“This is a new page in history. It didn’t happen when we reached the deal in Vienna on July 14; it happened on the fourth of August 2013, when the Iranians elected me as their president.”
“How can one be an Iranian and not cheer our negotiating team?”
—July 23, 2015, on state television
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
"Using ballistic missiles doesn’t violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA); it is a violation of a paragraph in the annex of the (UN Security Council) Resolution (2231) which is non-binding.”
"This paragraph (of the annex) speaks about missiles with nuclear warheads capability and since we don’t design any of our missiles for carrying nuclear weapons, therefore, this paragraph is not related to us at all.”
"If for any reason, Security Council sanctions are re-imposed, Iran will not be obliged to abide by its commitments."
“It was proved that the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue resistance for many years and negotiations for two years, under hard conditions of sanctions and pressures.”
“Anger of enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran and on top of which Zionist regime showed the strengthened might of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the region and the world. The hated Zionist regime has never been so isolated among its allies.”
Iran achieved its goals of “maintaining Iran’s dignity and might, establishing the nuclear program [of the country], enrichment and retaining the heavy-water reactor.”
“Ensuring this obvious issue (that Iran doesn’t build nuclear bombs) is no special privilege, since, based on religious and human principles and the fatwa by Leader of the Islamic Revolution [Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei], Iran has never been and never is after nuclear weapons.”
“We have never claimed and do not claim that the JCPOA is completely to the benefit of Iran; I emphasize that negotiating is basically giving [something] and taking [something in return], and unless a significant level of the two sides’ demands are met, no agreement is reached.”
“In order to meet our demands, we have had certain flexibility concerning restrictions and monitoring; this flexibility has been goal-oriented and well-calculated.”
"According to the plans, Iran is scheduled to move towards more advanced nuclear industry and commercial (uranium) enrichment.”
“For 12 years, great powers have tried to prevent an Iranian nuclear program. But today they should tolerate thousands of centrifuges spinning, plus the continuation of research and development. This shows our power.”
—July 21, 2015, in remarks to parliament
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi
"We have told them (the Group 5+1 - the US, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany) in the negotiations that we will supply arms to anyone and anywhere necessary and will import weapons from anywhere we want and we have clarified this during the negotiations.”
"We will take any necessary action to maintain and expand our defensive capabilities, safeguard our independence and sovereignty and help our regional allies to fight against terrorism."
"We are not ready to even negotiate on our security and defensive issues, let alone compromising them.”
—July 21, 2015, in remarks on state television
"The Security Council which once assumed Iran as a threat to the global peace and security based on the past resolutions, does no more consider Iran's nuclear program as a threat under the new Resolution and even recognizes Iran's enrichment and annuls the sanctions.”
"And in addition to endorsing Iran's enrichment, the Security Council also urges other countries to help Iran.”
—July 22, 2015, according to the press
Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi
"We are the only country among the 130 to 140 developing states that can export two of our strategic products to the international markets; enriched uranium and heavy water."
“Enrichment in Natanz will be maintained and the Arak reactor will remain a heavy water facility in nature."
"With the construction of the Arak modern reactor, we will not need any new reactor, and this achievement is one of the major successes… we could achieve in Vienna.”
—July 21, 2015, in remarks to parliament
Translations via Tasnim News, IRIB

Photo credits: Araghchi via Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs mfa.ir, Salehi via Flickr Commons (cropped)


UN Security Council Endorses Iran Deal

On July 20, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2231, endorsing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which will take effect 90 days after the council's endorsement. The resolution will expire ten years after adoption, and the council will “remove the Iranian nuclear issue from its agenda.” The council affirmed that it would terminate sanctions on Iran upon receiving a positive report from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The resolution also clarified the process of re-imposing U.N. sanctions if Iran does not comply with the agreement.

The following are excerpted remarks from officials on the adoption of Resolution 2231.
United States
Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power
“It is important today to step back from the JCPOA to its larger lessons – lessons about enforcing global norms, the essential role of diplomacy, the need for ongoing vigilance, and the absolute necessity of the unity of this Council – lessons that have implications both for ensuring implementation of the deal and for tackling other crises that confront us today.”
“There were many occasions over these last two years of grueling negotiations when any party could have walked away. The distances just seemed too great; the history between us searing; and the resulting mistrust defining. But the United States and our partners knew that we had a responsibility to try to overcome these obstacles and resolve the crisis peacefully. One only has to spend a week in the Security Council, any week, and hear accounts of the bloodshed and heartbreak in Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, Darfur, Mali, Libya or any other conflict-ridden part of the world – to be reminded of the consequences of war. Sometimes, as both the UN Charter and history make clear, the use of force is required, but we all have a responsibility to work aggressively in diplomatic channels to try to secure our objectives peacefully.
“This nuclear deal doesn’t change our profound concern about human rights violations committed by the Iranian government, or about the instability Iran fuels beyond its nuclear program – from its support for terrorist proxies, to its repeated threats against Israel, to its other destabilizing activities in the region. That is why the United States will continue to invest in the security of our allies in the region and why we will maintain our own sanctions related to Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missiles program and its human rights violations.
“And this deal will in no way diminish the United States’ outrage over the unjust detention of U.S. citizens by the Government of Iran. Let me use this occasion to call once again on Iran to immediately release all unjustly detained Americans.”
“But denying Iran a nuclear weapon is important not in spite of these other destabilizing actions, but rather because of them…while this deal does not address many of our profound concerns, if implemented, it would make the world safer and more secure.”
“Ultimately, the only proper measure of this deal – and all of the tireless efforts that went into it – will be its implementation. This deal gives Iran an opportunity to prove to the world that it intends to pursue a nuclear program solely for peaceful purposes. If Iran seizes that opportunity; if it abides by the commitments that it agreed to in this deal, as it did throughout the period of the JCPOA negotiations; if it builds upon the mutual respect and diligence that its negotiators demonstrated in Lausanne and Vienna; and if it demonstrates a willingness to respect the international standards upon which our collective security rests; then it will find the international community and the United States willing to provide a path out of isolation and toward greater engagement.
“We hope Iran’s government will choose that path – not only because it will make the United States, its allies, and the world more secure, though it will. But also because it will more fully empower the Iranian people, whose potential all of us should wish to see unlocked.”
—July 20, 2015, in a statement

Foreign Ministry
“The Islamic Republic of Iran declares that it has always been the policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran to prohibit the acquisition, production, stockpiling or use of nuclear weapons.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is determined to engage actively in all international diplomatic and legal efforts to save humanity from the menace of nuclear weapons and their proliferation, including through the establishment of Nuclear Weapons Free Zones, particularly in the Middle East.”
“The finalization of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on 14 July 2015 signifies a momentous step by the Islamic Republic of Iran and E3/EU+3 to resolve, through negotiations and based on mutual respect, an unnecessary crisis, which had been manufactured by baseless allegations about Iranian peaceful nuclear program, followed by unjustified politically-motivated measures against the people of Iran.”
“It is clearly spelled out in the JCPOA that both EU and the U.S. will refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing the sanctions and restrictive measures lifted under the JCPOA. It is understood that reintroduction or re-imposition, including through extension, of the sanctions and restrictive measures will constitute significant non-performance which would relieve Iran from its commitments in part or in whole.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran will pursue its peaceful nuclear program, including its enrichment and enrichment R&D, consistent with its own plan as agreed in the JCPOA.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has always fulfilled its international non-proliferation obligations scrupulously and will meticulously declare all its relevant activities under the Additional Protocol. In this context, since no nuclear activity is or will ever be carried out in any military facility, the Islamic Republic of Iran is confident that such facilities will not be the subject of inspection requests.”
“Iran is committed to fully implement its voluntary commitments in good faith. In order to ensure continued compliance by all JCPOA participants, the Islamic Republic of Iran underlines that in case the mechanism is applied against Iran or its entities and sanctions, particularly Security Council measures, are restored, the Islamic Republic of Iran will treat this as grounds to cease performing its commitments under the JCPOA, and to reconsider its cooperation with the IAEA.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to take necessary measures to strengthen its defense capabilities in order to protect its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity against any aggression and to counter the menace of terrorism in the region. In this context, Iranian military capabilities, including ballistic missiles, are exclusively for legitimate defense. They have not been designed for WMD capability, and are thus outside the purview or competence of the Security Council resolution and its annexes.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran expects to see meaningful realization of the fundamental shift in the Security Council’s approach envisaged in the preamble of SCR 2231. The Council has an abysmal track record in dealing with Iran, starting with its acquiescing silence in the face of a war of aggression by Saddam Hussain against Iran in 1980, its refusal from 1984 to 1988 to condemn, let alone act against, massive, systematic and wide-spread use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and civilians by Saddam Hussain, and the continued material and intelligence support for Saddam Hussain’s chemical warfare by several of its members.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is confident that the good-faith implementation of the JCPOA by all its participants will help restore the confidence of Iranian people who have been unduly subjected to illegal pressure and coercion under the pretext of this manufactured crisis, and will open new possibilities for cooperation in dealing with real global challenges and actual threats to regional security.”
—July 20, 2015, in a statement
Ambassador to the United Nations Gholamali Khoshroo
"Resolution 2231 that the Council just adopted represents a significant development and marks a fundamental shift in the consideration of Iran's peaceful nuclear program by the Council in the past 10 years. The JCPOA is the result of a series of extensive and collective efforts that sought, for close to two years, to give diplomacy a chance and end the resort to pressure, coercion and threat. This fundamentally different approach, which was a departure from the path travelled during the preceding years, helped all of us opt for the best possible way out, put an end to an unnecessary crisis and accomplish major achievements for all the parties involved and the whole international community.
"The resolution that was adopted and the JCPOA that was endorsed today provide also for the termination of the Security Council resolutions that unjustifiably placed sanctions on Iran for its efforts to exercise its rights. They were grounded on nothing but baseless and pure speculation and hearsay. Nobody has ever presented any proof indicating that Iran’s program has been anything but peaceful. The IAEA that put Iran's facilities under a record inspection has consistently reported that Iran has dutifully stood by every single commitment. For example, in terms of inspection frequency, only Japan has been subject to greater scrutiny than Iran, while Japan has much more extensive nuclear facilities. Last year, Iran even surpassed Japan in the number of inspections.
"Therefore, the involvement of the Security Council was not caused by a suspicious nuclear weapon program, but driven by the stated objective in SCR 1696 to compel Iran to suspend its lawful enrichment program. That demand was not only unnecessary and uncalled for, but in fact ran counter to the unanimous conclusions of the 2000 and 2010 NPT Review Conferences which stipulate that the choices of member-states with regard to their fuel cycle activities must be respected. It also neglected the repeated demands of the majority of the international community represented in NAM. The sanctions imposed against Iran in SCR 1737 through 1929 were all punishments for the refusal of the Iranian people to accept that demand. In engaging with E3/EU+3, the Iranian people have had the foresight to move forward, without losing sight of the past. Therefore, while we hope that the Security Council will open a new chapter in its relations with Iran, we cannot accept or forget its previous treatment of Iran, starting from its inaction in the face of Saddam’s aggression and the use of chemical weapons to its more recent treatment of the Iranian peaceful nuclear program.
The solution that we arrived at is undoubtedly in the interest of strengthening the regime of nuclear non-proliferation in its entirety, as it includes and recognizes the right of Iran to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, including uranium enrichment activities and R&D on its soil. Rights and obligations of States parties to the NPT, as under any other international regime, can only go hand in hand. Obligations would be honoured and these regimes, including the NPT, sustained only if rights could also be achievable. No threats of sanction or war could help sustain the NPT in the long run if big powers fail to honour all its three pillars, including total nuclear disarmament and the right of all to use nuclear energy, and non-parties are rewarded for their intransigence.
"Looking to the future, my Government hopes that the JCPOA and resolution 2231 herald a new chapter in the relationship between Iran with the Council and the JCPOA participants. Iran is both in a position and willing to comply fully with its commitment under the JCPOA; because it is already committed to the Fatwa of its Supreme leader, who has declared all weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, to be Haram, which its defence doctrine also so requires. We hope that our partners as well as the Council do the same with regards to their commitments under the same documents.
"The desire expressed by the Council to build a new relationship with Iran, its encouraging all Member States to cooperate with Iran in the framework of the JCPOA in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy and related projects as well as its emphasis that the JCPOA is conducive to promoting and facilitating the development of normal economic and trade contacts and cooperation with Iran are positive signs and all encouraging."
—July 20, 2015, in a statement
United Nations

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon
“I welcome the adoption this morning by the Security Council of Resolution 2231 (2015), which follows the historic agreement in Vienna last week between the E3+3 and Iran on a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme.
“Resolution 2231 will ensure the enforcement of the JCPOA. It establishes procedures that will facilitate the JCPOA’s implementation, enabling all States to carry out their obligations contained in the Agreement.
“The resolution provides for the eventual removal of all nuclear-related sanctions against Iran. It guarantees that the International Atomic Energy Agency will continue to verify Iran’s compliance with its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA.
“The United Nations stands ready to provide whatever assistance is required in giving effect to the resolution.”
—July 20, 2015, in a statement
Photo credit: UN logo via Wikimedia Commons, U.S. State Deparment, Foreign Ministry of Iran, Ban Ki-Moon by ITU Pictures from Geneva, Switzerland [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

NPR: Robin Wright on the Nuclear Deal

Robin Wright, a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, analyzed the nuclear deal and discussed her recent trip to Iran on NPR’s “On Point” with Tom Ashbrook. The following interview was broadcast on July 21.

Report: Who Has Authority to Lift US Sanctions on Iran

A new Congressional Research Service report by Dianne Rennack lays out the legislative basis for sanctions on Iran, as well as the authority of Congress and the President to waive or lift sanctions. The ability to impose and remove sanctions with “some nimbleness and responsiveness to changing events” is crucial for advancing foreign policy objectives, according to Rennack. The following are excerpts from the report.

The regime of economic sanctions against Iran is arguably the most complex the United States and the international community have ever imposed on a rogue state. Iran’s economy was once integrated into world trade, markets, and banking. As relations deteriorated, for the United States starting during Iran’s 1979 revolution and hostage-taking at the U.S. Embassy, and for the larger international community over more recent human rights, regional stability, and nuclear proliferation concerns, this complete economic integration offered seemingly limitless opportunities to impose economic restrictions and create points where pressure could be applied to bring Iran back into conformity with international norms.
The June 2013 election of President Hassan Rouhani seemed to have created the possibility of an opening between the United States and Iran. The presidents of each nation addressed a fall 2013 meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, and spoke directly to one another shortly thereafter—the first direct contact at the top level in 34 years. Diplomatic staff representing the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain (permanent members of the U.N. Security Council), plus Germany (P5+1),1 met with Iran’s foreign ministry in mid-October 2013 on the heels of that contact. Over November 7-9, 2013, these negotiators drafted an interim deal that would require Iran to limit its nuclear program and, in exchange, require the United States and others to ease economic sanctions affecting Iran’s access to some of its hard currency held abroad. The P5+1 and Iran negotiators agreed to a Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) on November 24, 2013, under which Iran would commit to placing “meaningful limits on its nuclear program,” and the P5+1 states would “provide Iran with limited, targeted, and reversible sanctions relief for a six-month period.” Subsequently, all parties agreed to extend the terms of the JPOA an additional six months, to July 20, 2014, and again to November 24, 2014. As the November deadline was reached without final agreement, all parties extended terms of the JPOA—including sanctions relief—through June 30, 2015.
The sudden possibility that the United States may ease financial sector sanctions, and perhaps commit to an eventual dismantling of the entire panoply of economic restrictions on Iran affecting aid, trade, shipping, banking, insurance, underwriting, and support in the international financial institutions, arrived at a time when Congress had been considering additional sanctions on Iran.
The 114th Congress enacted the Iran Nuclear Agreement Act of 2015,6 and the President signed the measure into law on May 22, 2015.7 The act, by amending the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, requires the President to send any agreement reached with Iran relating to its nuclear program to the Senate Committees on Finance; Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Select Committee on Intelligence; and Foreign Relations; the House Committees on Ways and Means; Financial Services; Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; Foreign Affairs; and majority and minority leaders in each chamber, within five days. Transmittal to Congress includes any supporting material, including a verification assessment report to be completed by the Secretary of State. The act affords Congress a period of time to review the agreement and assessment, during which “the President may not waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of statutory sanctions with respect to Iran under any provision of law or refrain from applying any such sanctions pursuant to an agreement.... ”
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