On April 20, the U.N. nuclear watchdog reported that Iran has continued to meet its commitments under the interim nuclear agreement with the world’s six major powers. The report found that Iran was not enriching uranium above the five percent level or making "any further advances" at its enrichment facilities and heavy water reactor.
But the nuclear watchdog also noted on April 16 that Tehran has not fully addressed outstanding issues on its program related to activities that could be used to create an atomic device, such as alleged experiments on explosives, despite a "constructive exchange."
The following are some of the report’s key findings.
Since January 20, 2014, Iran has:
- Not enriched uranium above the five percent level at its declared facilities
- Diluted 108.4kg of its 20 percent enriched uranium down to the five percent level
- Not made “any further advances” in its activities at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant or Arak reactor
- Began converting 2720kg of five percent enriched uranium into uranium oxide
- Continued to provide daily access to enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow
- Provided regular access to centrifuge assembly workshops and centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities
- Provided, for purposes of enhanced monitoring, plans for nuclear facilities, descriptions of their operations, and information on uranium mines and mills
On April 19, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani arrived in Tehran for a two-day visit with Iranian officials, his first since taking office in September. He was accompanied by six other Afghan officials, including Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and National Security Advisor Muhammad Hanif Atmar. Ghani met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani during his visit, and signed two agreements to increase cooperation in countering terrorism and drug trafficking. The following are excerpted remarks from Afghan and Iranian officials during Ghani’s visit.
Leader at meeting w Pres. Ghani: Afghan scholars have a big role in promotion of Islamic teachings& Persian language. pic.twitter.com/cQC7gSH2iO— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) April 20, 2015
Officially welcomed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who's heading high-level delegation including 4 ministers to Tehran pic.twitter.com/ET7itgclmC— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 19, 2015
Iran and the world’s six major powers now face a June 30 deadline for converting a blueprint into a final nuclear deal. Conflicting interpretations of terms in the proposed framework that was announced on April 2 have crystallized in recent weeks. Washington and Tehran seem to have differing views on sanctions relief, inspections of nuclear sites and research and development. With talks resuming this week, negotiators from the seven nations face three months of potentially tough talks to work out their differences.
Former member of Iran's parliament (2000-2004)
Visiting Fellow at Virginia Tech & Human Rights Advocate
- Iran and the world’s six major powers are close to a historic achievement that could solve a major international crisis peacefully.
- In Iran, the Rouhani administration, Parliament, the Supreme Leader and the vast majority of citizens have reached a consensus that they want a nuclear agreement. Such a consensus, however, does not exist in the U.S.
- If negotiations are extended for six months or longer, Iranian domestic politics could interfere. Iran has two major elections in February 2016, one for Parliament and one for the Assembly of Experts.
- For the first time, the Supreme Leader has mentioned that Iran could discuss other issues with the international community if a nuclear deal is successfully implemented. Regional issues related to ISIS, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan would probably be the first topics of talks.
- The U.S. and Iran could eventually normalize relations if a nuclear deal is brokered. In the future, Washington may even be able to discuss human rights with Tehran.
- Iran cooperated closely with the U.S. on overthrowing the Taliban in Afghanistan. But the U.S. lost an opportunity for further engagement when President George W. Bush said Iran was part of an “axis of evil.”
- Both the U.S. and Iran lack understanding of each other’s politics and culture. More dialogue is needed.
Former Congressman (D-KS, 1983-1995), Recently Visited Iran
Partner, Wiley Rein LLP
- The U.S. and Iran have reached an historic moment; the great tragedy is that domestic political forces may prevent a breakthrough.
- During a visit to Tehran in December, many people had the same question: can President Obama implement a deal?
- The political futures of some Iranian leaders depend on getting a deal with the U.S. Their worst nightmare is that, after going out on a limb, Congress may scuttle any accord.
- An agreement hinges on verification because neither side trusts the other. The Supreme Leader’s statements about denying inspectors access to military sites are troubling. Overall, however, the plan for a deal shows that Iran has made significant concessions.
- Based on 10 years of interaction with Iranian businesspeople, religious leaders and politicians, it’s clear that Iran wants to reset relations with the U.S., with some limitations.
- Solving the nuclear dispute could create a platform for the U.S. and Iran to discuss common interests, like defeating the so-called Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
- Iran is a regional superpower in terms of energy and people. Its population of 80 million is nearly three times that of Saudi Arabia or Iraq. It has the world’s fourth-largest amount of proven oil reserves and second-largest natural gas reserves. Its literacy rate is about 90 percent for those under age 45, 60 percent of its university students are female, and the median age of its citizens is 28.
- Washington needs to make sure its allies in the region know a nuclear deal will not diminish U.S. support for them. Tremendous diplomatic efforts will be required to reassure them.
Former Senior Director for Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council (2005-2008)
Senior Fellow, The Washington Institute
- Questions surrounding the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program need to be answered upfront. Those answers are critical for designing a sufficient verification regime.
- The issue of Iran’s missile development should have been included in the talks, because it is linked to the nuclear issue.
- The U.S. should carefully examine its alternatives if a deal is not reached.
- Washington should also focus on ensuring that Tehran’s alternatives are worse than making a deal, as an incentive for Iran to accept terms that are better for U.S. interests.
- Iran cannot afford to negotiate for another six months. But the U.S. has leeway for six months or even a year.
- The design for the agreement seems to be conceptually flawed in several ways. First, it will likely require future presidents to waive sanctions every six months, and some of the hardest decisions have been left for the future.
- Second, the deal does not require Iran to dismantle anything. Its nuclear program essentially remains intact. Even if a deal leads to positive changes in Iran’s regional strategy, its neighbors may still view its nuclear program as a threat.
- Even if sanctions unrelated to the nuclear issue remain in place, lifting other sanctions reduces pressure on Tehran to negotiate on other issues.
- Sanctions relief means that Iran will have more revenue to pursue regional activities that the U.S. is concerned about.
- Sanctions are blunt instruments. But without them, the U.S. would have fewer tools for deterring Iran, making direct intervention by the U.S. in regional conflicts more likely.
- Iranian and U.S. interests diverge on many issues, so a huge breakthrough in relations after a deal is unlikely.
Former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (D-CA, 1983-2013)
Senior Advisor, Covington & Burling LLP
- Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s statements in recent days about sanctions relief and not granting inspectors access to military sites suggest he is thinking about an agreement very different from one that the world’s six major powers could sign.
- Tension exists between elements of the Revolutionary Guards and hardliners, on the one hand, and President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, on the other. So a lot depends on the Supreme Leader’s position.
- At first, Congress instinctively opposed a deal with Iran, especially one that would not dismantle its nuclear infrastructure. The agreement worked out between Senator Bob Corker, Senator Benjamin Cardin and the White House, however, has changed the political equation in Washington.
- The new legislation, which is awaiting final congressional approval, would forestall any further action related to a nuclear agreement with Iran until a deal is finalized. In the event Congress votes to prevent implementation, two-thirds of both houses would be needed to override the president’s veto.
- A key question for Congress will be, is this deal the least-worst option? If one third of the Senate and one third of the House of Representatives think so, then the deal would go into effect.
- The sanctions effort that brought the international community together was about Iran’s nuclear program. Bringing other issues into these talks could risk losing the support of the international community.
- A nuclear deal might create concern among U.S. allies, including Israel and the Gulf countries, which believe Iran has hegemonic interests.
- The Volatile Factors Underlying a Potential Iran Nuclear Deal
- Nuclear Flashpoints: US-Iran Tensions Over Timetables and Terms
- Iran Sanctions and the Possible Trade-Offs for a Nuclear Deal
Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, arrested nine months ago in Iran, is reportedly being charged with four crimes. A statement from Rezaian’s lawyer provided to The Post by his family said the charges include espionage, “collaborating with hostile governments,” and “propaganda against the establishment.” One example of communication with a “hostile government” cited in the indictment included writing to President Obama. Iran’s Revolutionary Court, which is responsible for national security cases, has also accused Rezaian of collecting classified information.
More generally, let me repeat something that I said before, which is that the ongoing effort to try to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon through diplomacy will not, if it succeeds, resolve the wide range of other concerns we have about Iranian behavior. I mentioned earlier in response to Nedra’s question our ongoing concerns about Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, including shipping arms to the Houthis, for example. We continue to be concerned about Iran’s support for terrorism and Iran’s language that currently emanates from their leadership that threatens our closest ally in the Middle East, Israel. And we continue to have concerns about Mr. Rezaian and other Americans who are being unjustly detained in Iran.
One thing that we have done, Mike, that you know, in the context of the talks is raised on the sidelines of those talks our concern about the status of these American citizens. And we’re going to continue to press that case as we move forward here.
QUESTION: Josh, on the Jason Rezaian case, why can’t you just say to the Iranians that as a condition of making this deal final, you’ve got to free Jason Rezaian? I understand you’re going to resolve all of your issues with Iran, like supporting terrorism throughout the region -- all of those issues that are very complicated perhaps; some would argue maybe not. But here you have one case of an American who’s been held prisoner since July of last year, now brought up on what you just said were absurd charges. Why not say, look, we’re not going to sign a deal until you let him go?
MR. EARNEST: The reason for that, Jon, simply is that the effort to build the international community’s strong support for a diplomatic resolution, or a diplomatic agreement that would shut down every pathway that Iran has to a nuclear weapon is extraordinarily complicated. And so we’re trying to focus on these issues one at a time. And that’s why you continue to see regular, consistent and pretty forceful statements from the United States that these Americans should be released, while at the same time we are working with our P5+1 partners and other countries around the world to compel Iran to sign on to the dotted line and agree to shut down every pathway they have to a nuclear weapon, and cooperate with the most intrusive set of inspections that have ever been imposed on a country’s nuclear program.
—April 20, 2015 during a press briefing