United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

UN: Iran Complying with Interim Nuke Deal

            On May 23, the U.N. nuclear watchdog confirmed in a new report that Iran is fulfilling its commitments under the interim agreement. Iran has halted its most sensitive activities and rolled back its program in other key areas. Tehran, for the first time since 2008, has also provided the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with additional information related to past activities that may have been related to weapons research. The following are excerpts from the Arms Control Association’s analysis of the IAEA report by Kelsey Davenport.

            Taken together, Iran’s actions on the Joint Plan of Action and the November 11 agreement with the IAEA that are outlined in this report demonstrate that Tehran is fulfilling its obligations and willing to be more transparent about its nuclear activities. The cooperation provides some positive momentum as the P5+1 and Iran enter the final rounds of talks on a comprehensive agreement by July 20.
Key Findings:
•Iran provided the IAEA with information on exploding bridgewire detonators, one of the activities with possible military dimensions (PMDs), laid out in a November 2011 IAEA report. The IAEA is assessing that information.
•Iran agreed to an additional set of actions to provide the IAEA with more information regarding PMDs and outstanding concerns, including information on neutron initiators and explosives.
•Iran’s stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium hexafluoride gas has dropped to 38.4 kilograms, down from 160 kilograms in the February report.
Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 3.5 percent has increased to 8,475 kg, up from 7,609 kg in the February report.
•Iran commissioned a facility that will convert 3.5 percent enriched uranium from hexaflouride gas to a less-proliferation sensitive powder form.
•Iran declared a new facility to the IAEA, a light-water reactor to produce medical isotopes that will be constructed near Shiraz.
•Iran and the IAEA are making progress on an updated safeguards approach to the Arak heavy water reactor.
Progress on Possible Military Dimension (PMDs)
            The May 2013 IAEA report shows progress on the agency’s investigations in the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program for the first time since 2008. The IAEA laid out its suspicions about past military activities related to weapons development in detail in a 2011 report, but discussions on these issues predated the public release of this information.
            Under the November 11 agreement, Iran agreed to complete six actions by February. More actions were agreed to at that point, including Iran’s agreement to provide the IAEA with information related to its development of exploding bridgewire detonators by May 15.
            While progress is being made on the questions related to PMDS, a number of other issues remain unresolved. The May report said that satellite imagery indicates further activity at Parchin, a site of interest in the IAEA’s investigations. Continued construction activities will make it difficult for the IAEA to conduct their investigation into the activities at this site.
            In addition to the PMD issues, the IAEA reported that Iran completed an additional six steps as part of the November 11 agreement. These steps include vists to a uranium mine and uranium concentration plant. Access to a laser enrichment center, updated information on the Arak heavy water reactor and discussions on its safeguards agreement, and information about uranium source material not being enriched.
            This information will help the IAEA evaluate whether or not Iran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful, and build a baseline that can help ensure that materials are not being used for covert activities.
20 Percent Enriched Uranium Stockpile Drops
            Iran’s stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium has dropped dramatically since implementation of the Joint Plan of Action. Iran now has 38.4 kg of uranium hexafluoride gas enriched to 20 percent in its stockpile.
            The reduced stockpile of 20 percent enriched material to 38.4 kg puts Iran even further from the 250 kg which, when enriched to weapons grade, is enough material for one nuclear weapon. The continued downblending and conversion extends the time it would take Iran to produce enough fissile material for a weapon, if it choses to do so.
3.5 Percent Enriched Uranium
            Iran is allowed to continue enriching uranium to 3.5 percent under the November 24 interim agreement, but agreed to convert the uranium enriched to that level during the six months of the initial deal to a powder form that can be used to fuel nuclear power reactors. Delays to that facility caused concern that Iran may not be able to meet this deadline, but the new IAEA report says that the facility was commissioned on May 10.
            According to the interim agreement with the P5+1, Iran will need to reduce its stockpile back down to less than 7,500 kg by July 20 by converting the excess from hexafluoride gas to the enriched uranium powder.
New Arak Safeguards Underway
            As per the terms of the November 24 agreement, Iran has halted installation of major components at the Arak heavy water reactor (IR-40), and provided the IAEA with updated design information on the reactor.
            According to the May 23 report, Iran and the IAEA met on May 5 to continue discussions about an updated safeguards approach for the reactor. They agreed to conclude the safeguards approach by August 25.
New Facility Declared
            Iran also updated its declaration to the IAEA by adding a new facility. In the previous report, Iran provided information to the IAEA about a planned light water reactor to produce medical isotopes. The May IAEA report says that Iran is planning to build that reactor at Shiraz. However, no timeline for construction was provided in the report.
Centrifuges Unchanged at Natanz
            The May IAEA report confirms that the number of centrifuges installed at Natanz remains unchanged at 15,420 IR-1 machines in 90 cascades, and 1,008 IR-2Ms machines.
            The number of IR-1 centrifuges enriching uranium to 3.5 percent at Natanz also remains unchanged from the prior two reports, with about 9,400 IR-1 machines operating in 54 cascades.
            Under the November 24 agreement, Iran committed not to install any further centrifuges at it Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz and not to operate any additional centrifuges beyond the number that were enriching at the time of the November agreement.
Research and Development Continues
            According to the May IAEA report, Iran has not begun testing a new centrifuge, the IR-8 at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz. Similar to the February report, the IAEA noted that a centrifuge casing for the IR-8 was installed, but it was not yet connected for testing.
            The IAEA noted that Iran is continuing to test other advanced centrifuges, the IR-4, IR-6, and IR-6s machines in single centrifuges and cascades at the facility.
            Iran is allowed to continue these research and development activities under existing IAEA safeguards as part of the November 24 deal.

Click here for the full brief.
Click here for the IAEA report.

Zarif & Ashton Announce June 16-20 Talks

      On May 26, E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced that a new round of nuclear talks is scheduled for June 16 to 20 in Vienna. The last round of negotiations on May 16 between Iran and the world’s six major powers —Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States —ended without any tangible progress. The following is a statement released by the European Union after the meeting in Istanbul.

            The High Representative held very long and useful discussions with Foreign Minister Zarif in order to inform the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme.
            They explored different possibilities as part of an ongoing process.
            The next formal round of E3/EU+3 talks with Iran will be from 16-20 June in Vienna.
In the meantime, the High Representative and Minister are recommending that an experts’ meeting should take place soon.
            Other political discussions will continue as and when needed.



US Sanctions Iranian Official for Censorship

            On May 23, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned Iranian official Morteza Tamaddon for involvement in censorship. “The United States is keenly focused on promoting opportunities for the Iranian people to fully exercise their universal rights,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. The action was taken pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13628, which authorizes Treasury to designate those who engage in censorship or other activities that limit the freedom of expression or assembly of the Iranian people. The following is an excerpt from the press release.

            Morteza Tamaddon is currently the head of the Tehran Provincial Public Security Council. As former Governor-General of Tehran Province, he used his authority to penalize the exercise of and limit Iranians’ freedom of expression and assembly following the disputed 2009 elections in Iran. Tamaddon has been personally responsible for the harassment of Iranian political opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi. In addition, he used his position to cut off mobile phone communications during political demonstrations and to silence and intimidate Iranian citizens in 2012 by publicly threatening political protestors.
           Tamaddon has been placed on the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons. All property and interests in property in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons in which the individual designated today has an interest are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with him. In addition, any foreign financial institution or person that facilitates significant transactions or provides material support to the designated entities or individuals may have their access to the U.S. financial system severed or their property and interests in property under U.S. jurisdiction blocked.
Identifying Information
Individual:      Morteza Tamaddon
DOB:              1959
POB:               Shahr Kord-Isfahan, Iran

How the US Decides on Whom to Impose Sanctions

            The following is an excerpt from the U.S. Government Accountability Office's letter to the chair of the House of Representative’s foreign affairs committee detailing the process to determine whether to impose sanctions under the Iran Sanctions Act.

            U.S. sanctions on Iran include those specified in the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 (Iran Sanctions Act). Section 5(b) of the Iran Sanctions Act authorizes sanctions on persons engaging in various activities that involve weapons of mass destruction or other military capabilities and are related to Iran. You requested that we review how the Department of State (State) has implemented the sanctions provisions in Section 5(b). This report describes the process State and other relevant U.S. agencies use to determine whether to sanction persons under Section 5(b).
            To determine the process State and other relevant U.S. agencies use to determine whether to sanction persons under Section 5(b), we obtained documentation and interviewed State officials. We interviewed agency officials at the Department of Energy and the Department of Commerce (agencies identified by State as relevant to the sanctions determination process), and obtained corroborating documentation about their roles in making this determination. In addition, we compared the agencies’ criteria with the relevant requirements in Section 5(b). We obtained documentation from State about the number of sanctions imposed under Section 5(b). We interviewed State officials to obtain additional context relating to the sanctions process. We also reviewed the Federal Register for notifications of Section 5(b) sanctions for the time period August 10, 2012, to May 20, 2014.
           We conducted this performance audit from January 2014 to May 2014 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.
           Section 5(b) of the Iran Sanctions Act requires the President to impose sanctions on any person who has engaged in a transaction that meets all of the following criteria:
• The activity must have occurred on or after August 10, 2012.
• A person must have exported or transferred, or permitted or otherwise facilitated the transshipment of, any goods, services, or technology or other items to any other person.
• The person must have known or should have known that the export, transfer, or transshipment of the goods, services, technology, or other items would likely result in another person exporting, transferring, transshipping, or otherwise providing the goods, services, or technology or other items to Iran.
• The person must have known or should have known that the export, transfer, transshipment, or other provision of the goods, services, technology, or other items to Iran would contribute materially to the ability of Iran to (I) acquire or develop chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons or related technologies or (II) acquire or develop destabilizing numbers and types of advanced conventional weapons.
            Section 5(b) also requires the President to impose sanctions on persons engaged in certain joint ventures linked to Iran and involving the mining, production, or transportation of uranium. The President has delegated the decision to impose Section 5(b) sanctions to the Secretary of State.
State Leads the Process to Determine Whether to Sanction Persons under Section 5(b) of the Iran Sanctions Act
            State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation’s Office of Counterproliferation Initiatives leads an interagency process to evaluate whether a person’s activities are potentially sanctionable under Section 5(b) of the Iran Sanctions Act or under one or more of other multiple Iran-related sanctions authorities.8Figure 1 illustrates the process for identifying persons meeting sanctions requirements under Section 5(b). The process begins with four State-led interagency working groups. These groups are the Nuclear Interdiction Action Group, the SHIELD Chemical and Biological Weapons Group, the Technology Transfer Working Group, and the Missile Trade Analysis Group.
Figure 1: Process for Identifying Persons Meeting Sanctions Requirements under Section 5(b) of the Iran Sanctions Act
            *The four working groups include, for example, members from the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, and the intelligence community, among others. These working groups are responsible for identifying potential violations of multiple proliferation-related sanctions authorities, including Section 5(b) of the Iran Sanctions Act.
            Each working group is chaired by a State official and consists of representatives from several U.S. government departments and agencies such as the Departments of Defense, Commerce, Homeland Security, Treasury, and Energy; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and various intelligence community agencies. U.S. government officials who participate as subject matter experts on the working groups said that they advise State on transactions related to their respective areas of focus. For instance, the Nuclear Interdiction Action Group, the SHIELD Chemical and Biological Weapons Group, and the Technology Transfer Working Group are responsible for examining sources, including intelligence reports, that may be relevant to provisions of Section 5(b) related to nuclear weapons, chemical and biological weapons, and advanced conventional weapons, respectively. The Missile Trade Analysis Group is responsible for monitoring transfers of missile proliferation concern that are considered relevant to Section 5(b).
            Officials from the Office of Counterproliferation Initiatives stated that the working groups are responsible for regularly evaluating reports to identify transactions that are potentially sanctionable under one or more of the multiple Iran-related nonproliferation sanction authorities, including Section 5(b) of the Iran Sanctions Act. State officials said these reports come from a variety of sources, including the intelligence community. Working group representatives said they are in regular communication and meet biweekly or monthly to discuss these reports and their findings to determine whether transactions meet the criteria for sanctions. According to State and other working group officials, the interagency review process relies on criteria as defined in Section 5(b) when assessing a transaction for the potential application of those sanctions. Officials from the interagency working groups said that State directs them to apply these criteria when assessing transactions for the possible imposition of sanctions under Section 5(b). State is in the process of drafting a document to officially outline its Section 5(b) review procedures and the guidance it provides to the participating working group agencies. State officials also said the groups may stop reviewing transactions if they determine available information does not provide a basis for applying sanctions or is not legally sufficient.
            Once a working group determines that a transaction appears to demonstrate sanctionable activity under Section 5(b) of the Iran Sanctions Act, the working group chair reports the group’s findings and recommendations to State’s Office of Counterproliferation Initiatives. The office further examines the narrowed list of transactions forwarded by the working groups, informally consulting with working group chairs and legal advisors to clarify technical points and answer questions on transactions identified as potentially sanctionable. For those transactions that appear to demonstrate sanctionable activity, the Office of Counterproliferation Initiatives solicits interagency advice, and drafts and circulates a decision memorandum to relevant stakeholders for clearance. Once the stakeholders have fully cleared the memorandum, the Office of Counterproliferation Initiatives forwards it to the Secretary of State or his/her designee for a final sanctions determination. At any stage of this process, State officials may determine that there is no current basis for applying sanctions. The Office of Counterproliferation Initiatives prepares a report on imposed sanctions for publication in the Federal Register.
            According to State officials, the interagency working groups have not identified any cases that meet the legal requirements necessary to impose sanctions under Section 5(b) as of May 19, 2014. Our review of the Federal Register confirmed that State has not imposed any such sanctions as of May 20, 2014.
Click here for a PDF of the letter.

“Happy” Video Dancers Released by Police

            On May 21, six young Iranians detained for appearing in a video singing along to Pharrell William’s “Happy” were released by Tehran police. But the director of the video was not. In the YouTube clip below, three women — without hijab — and three men dance and lip synch to the American pop song.


            The clip was viewed more than 100,000 times before the six dancers were detained on May 20. Tehran Police Chief Hossein Sajedinia ordered the arrests of the youth for making an “obscene video clip that offended the public morals,” the Iranian Students’ News Agency reported. “They were identified within two hours, and after six hours they were all arrested,” Sajedinia told media. The six dancers were forced to express remorse on state television for making the YouTube clip. Part of the broadcast is subtitled below.

            Pharell Williams and his fans around the world voiced condemned the arrests on social media. “It is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness,” the singer tweeted on May 20. The hashtag #FreeHappyIranians went viral.
            A tweet on President Hassan Rouhani's semi-official account may have indicated disapproval of the detention. The following quote from 2013 was posted on May 21.  


             Rouhani campaigned for better access to information and less government oversight. After his June 2013 election, Rouhani warned, “In the age of digital revolution, one cannot live or govern in a quarantine.” Rouhani’s minister of culture and Islamic guidance, Ali Jannati, has repeatedly called for lifting bans on social media like Facebook and Twitter. But hardliners have sabotaged efforts by Rouhani’s administration to ease web censorship.
           The six dancers from the YouTube clip were released on May 21. But the director reportedly remains in custody. The detention came amid an outpouring of support for a Facebook page — “My Stealthy Freedom” — featuring hundreds of pictures of Iranian women without their hijabs. The page has generated more than 400,000 comments on Facebook.

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