United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Report: Internal Tensions in Iran

            Iran’s internal politics and economic situation are fraught with tension, according to data compiled by international bodies and presented by Anthony Cordesman. For example, youth unemployment is already high at some 23 percent. But nearly a quarter of Iran’s population is 14-years-old or younger, which means that generation may have an even tougher time finding employment. Iran’s government has also received poor marks for effectiveness, corruption and accountability. The following are selected excerpts from the report published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Demographic Pressures

•Cumulative Growth: 80.8 Million in July 2014. (Was 16.6 million in 1950, 39.7 million when Khomeini took power. Projected to be 93.5 million in 2030, 100.5 million in 2050 (US Census Bureau)
• Youth: 0-14 years: 23.7% (male 9,834,866/female 9,350,017); 15-24 years: 18.7% (male 7,757,256/female 7,341,309)
• Employment: Over 715,000 males and 677,000 females reach job age each year in labor force of 27 million with key lacks in job skills.
•Youth Unemployment: Total: 23%. Country comparison to the world: 48th. Male: 20.2% female: 33.9% (Dated)
• Hyperurbanization: urban population: 69.1% of total population (2011); rate of urbanization: 1.25% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
• Ethnic Divisions: Persian 61%, Azeri 16%, Kurd 10%, Lur 6%, Baloch 2%, Arab 2%, Turkmen and Turkic tribes 2%, other 1%
• Dependency Ratio: Total dependency ratio: 41 % youth dependency ratio: 33.6 % elderly dependency ratio: 7.5 %
Source: CIA World Factbook, “Iran,” , June 2, 2014


Uncertain Economic Pressures
• GDP of $987.7 billion in 2013 versus $165.7 for Kuwait, $198.7 for Qatar, $927.8 for Saudi Arabia, $269.8 for UAE.
• Inflation: 42.3% in 2013.
• Budget: $66.4 billion in spending, $47.8 billion in Revenues. -4.5% GDP
• Exports: $61.22 billion (2013 est.) vs. $67.04 billion (2012 est.)
• Imports: $64.42 billion (2013 est.) vs. $70.03 billion (2012 est.)
• Current Account Balance: -$8.7 billion in 2013
• Industrial Production Growth Rate: -5.2% (2013 est.) Country comparison to
the world: 191st
• World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index: 152nd in the world
• Total Unemployment Rate: 16%, 23rd in the world (Dated)
• Population Below Poverty Line: 18.7% (Dated)
• Household Income of Consumption by Percentage Share: Lowest 10% =2.6%. Highest 10% = 29.6% GINI = 44.6 (Dated)
• Dependency Ratio: Total dependency ratio: 41 % youth dependency ratio:
33.6 % elderly dependency ratio: 7.5 %
Source: CIA World Factbook, “Iran,” , June 2, 2014
Click here for the full report.
Tags: Reports

UK to Reopen Embassy in Tehran

            On June 17, Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that Britain intends to reopen its embassy in Tehran. The embassy has been closed since demonstrators stormed it on Nov. 29, 2011 to protest new British sanctions on Iranian banks. The United Kingdom also closed the Iranian embassy in London and expelled all Iranian diplomats. The following is the full text of Hague’s statement.

      In February, I updated the House on progress in our bilateral relationship with Iran, following the appointment of non-resident Chargés d’Affaires in November 2013 (Official Report 24 February 2014 col 26). I said then that our decision to end formal protecting power arrangements was a sign of our increasing confidence in conducting bilateral business directly rather than through our Swedish and Omani intermediaries.
      Over the past four months, we have continued to expand our bilateral engagement. British and Iranian officials have paid regular visits to each other’s capitals. This has enabled us to resolve a range of practical matters concerning our embassies. And it has allowed us to discuss a broad range of issues, including areas where we and Iran have sharply differing views.
          Our two primary concerns when considering whether to reopen our embassy in Tehran have been assurance that our staff would be safe and secure, and confidence that they would be able to carry out their functions without hindrance. There has never been any doubt in my mind that we should have an Embassy in Tehran if the circumstances allowed. Iran is an important country in a volatile region, and maintaining embassies around the world, even under difficult conditions, is a central pillar of the UK’s global diplomatic approach. On Saturday I telephoned Foreign Minister Zarif to discuss the progress we have made to date and our common interest in continuing to move forward in the UK-Iran bilateral relationship.
          I have therefore now decided the circumstances are right to reopen our embassy in Tehran. There are a range of practical issues that we will need to resolve first. However, it is our intention to reopen the embassy in Tehran with a small initial presence as soon as these practical arrangements have been made. I expect the Iranian Government will similarly choose to take steps to reopen its embassy in London.
          Inevitably, the initial embassy presence will only be able to offer a limited range of services at first. For the time being, Iranians will still need to apply in Abu Dhabi or Istanbul for visas for travel to the UK. But encouraging people to people contact is an important priority and something that I hope we will be able to make progress on as the Embassy grows in size and capability over the following months.

US and Iranian Religious Leaders Declare Opposition to Weapons of Mass Destruction

            On June 14, a group of U.S. bishops and Iranian religious leader issued a joint declaration opposing actions that endanger the health, dignity and welfare of others — including proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The declaration was the result of a dialogue between the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Supreme Council of the Teachers of Qom, Iran’s center of religious scholarship. An American delegation visited Iran in March. The following is the full text of the declaration.

June 14, 2014 -16 Sha'bān 1435 AH
           The belief in One God unites Jews, Christians and Muslims, and calls us to work for the common good of the whole human family. It is our conviction that human societies need moral guidance and that it is incumbent on us as religious leaders to share the ethical teachings that flow from our respective traditions.
           Christianity and Islam cherish a common heritage that emphasizes, above all, love and respect for the life, dignity, and welfare of all members of the human community. We found this in our recent dialogue between Catholicism and Shia Islam. Both of our traditions reject as reprehensible all forms of transgression and injustice. We oppose any action that endangers the life, health, dignity, or welfare of others. Catholicism and Shia Islam hold a common commitment to peaceful coexistence and mutual respect.
           These foundational moral values unite us in raising fundamental moral questions regarding weapons of mass destruction. Shia Islam opposes and forbids the production, stockpiling, use and threat to use weapons of mass destruction. Catholicism is also working for a world without weapons of mass destruction and calls on all nations to rid themselves of these indiscriminate weapons.
           We call on all societies and persons to respect religion and its role in sharing moral guidance in the public square. As religious leaders, we condemn all forms of disrespect for the religious traditions of others. Just as importantly, we commit ourselves to active inter-religious dialogue that transcends governments and national boundaries and serves the common good of the whole human family. It is our mutual intention to engage in a sustained dialogue based on our shared values.
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US and Iran Leaders on Iraq Crisis

            Both Washington and Tehran have indicated openness to working cooperatively to quell the Iraq crisis. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a Sunni militant group fighting the Assad regime in Syria, has recently taken significant territory in western Iraq and now threatens both U.S. and Iranian interests in the region. On June 19, President Barack Obama noted that Iran could play a constructive role in Iraq. Previously, President Hassan Rouhani said on June 14 that Iran could consider collaboration with the United States if it “starts confronting terrorist groups in Iraq or elsewhere.” Two days later, Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington is open to discussions with Tehran if it is “prepared to do something that is going to respect the integrity and sovereignty of Iraq and ability of the government to reform.” The following are excerpted remarks by U.S. and Iranian leaders on the crisis.


President Barack Obama

      “Our view is that Iran can play a constructive role if it is helping to send the same message to the Iraqi government that we're sending, which is that Iraq only holds togethernly holds together if it’s inclusive and that -- if the interests of Sunni, Shia and Kurd are all respected. If Iran is coming in solely as an armed force on behalf of the Shia and it -- if it is framed in that fashion, then that probably worsens the situation and the prospect for a government formation that would actually be constructive over the long term.
      “Just as Iraq's leaders have to make decisions, I think Iran has heard from us. We've indicated to them that it is important to avoid the kinds of steps that might encourage the kind of sectarian splits that might lead to civil war.
            “We have deep differences with Iran ... on a whole host of issues. Obviously what’s happened in Syria in part is the result of Iran coming in hot and heavy on one side. And you know, Iran obviously should consider the fact that if it is -- if its view of the region is solely through sectarian frames, they could find themselves fighting a whole lot of places. And that’s probably not good for the Iranian economy or the Iranian people over the long term either.
            “I suspect there are folks in Iran who recognize that. You know, a Iraq in chaos on their borders is probably not in their interests. But old habits die hard. And you know, we’ll have to see whether they can take what I think would be a more promise path over the next several days.”
           June 19, 2014 in a statement

Secretary of State John Kerry
     “We're open to discussions if there is something constructive that can be contributed by Iran, if Iran is prepared to do something that is going to respect the integrity and sovereignty of Iraq and ability of the government to reform.
     “I wouldn’t rule out anything that would be constructive.
     “I think we are open to any constructive process here that could minimize the violence, hold Iraq together, the integrity of the country and eliminate the presence of outside terrorist forces that are ripping it apart.
     The United States will give a “very thorough vetting of every option that is available,” including drone strikes. “When you have people murdering, assassinating in these mass massacres, you have to stop that — from the air or otherwise.
           “The bottom line is that this is an internal struggle, which has gone on for a long time in Iraq. Shia, Sunni. It’s got overtones of Iraq’s – of Iran’s influence in Iraq. It has very serious implications with respect to other countries encouraging certain kinds of activities, and it’s much more complicated than meets the eye.
           “I don’t believe that Iranian troops are coming in and crossing the border, but there is obviously a mobilization of some of the militia, no question about it.  And that has its dangers, certainly." 
            June 16, 2014 in an interview with Yahoo! News
State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki
      “Well, as we noted or we released last night, but let me reiterate for all of you here, Deputy Secretary Burns met briefly with Iranians on the margins of the P5+1 meeting in Vienna, separate from the trilateral meeting. It was a brief on the margins; it was separate from the discussions and the negotiations that are ongoing. They discussed the need to support inclusivity in Iraq and the need to refrain from pressing a sectarian agenda.
      “In terms of where we go from here, we’re open to continuing our engagement with the Iranians, just as we are engaging with other regional players on the threat posed by ISIL in Iraq. It is likely it would – those discussions would happen at a lower level, and we don’t expect further conversations with Iran on this issue in Vienna. Those talks will focus on the nuclear issue for the remainder of the week.
            “In terms of where we go from here, we’re open to continuing our engagement with the Iranians, just as we are engaging with other regional players on the threat posed by ISIL in Iraq. It is likely it would – those discussions would happen at a lower level, and we don’t expect further conversations with Iran on this issue in Vienna. Those talks will focus on the nuclear issue for the remainder of the week.
            “In fact, we don't think that the focus should be on the military component in Iraq. But clearly any country that can make the argument that there needs to be unity and the sectarian tensions that have been flaming in Iraq are harmful to the stability is one we would feel is useful. That is the message that was sent from our end.
            “There is a shared concern that they have expressed publicly about the stability of Iraq and the impact of ISIL That was the reason why there was a brief engagement on this on Tuesday.”
           June 17, 2014 in a daily press briefing
Senior Official
            "We are open to engaging the Iranians, just as we are engaging other regional players on the threat post by ISIL in Iraq. The issue did come up briefly with Iran on the margins of the P5+1 in Vienna today, separate from our trilateral meeting. These engagements will not include military coordination or strategic determinations about Iraq’s future over the heads of the Iraqi people. We will discuss how ISIL threatens many countries in the region, including Iran, and the need to support inclusivity in Iraq and refrain from pressing a sectarian agenda."
            June 16, 2014 in a background briefing on the nuclear talks
Senator Lindsey Graham (R- SC)
      “We'll currently, probably, need their help to hold Baghdad. Their goal is to create a sectarian Iraq. To have a puppet in Baghdad, this is Shia-dominated government where they control the outcome. They want the southern part of Iraq. Our goal is to have an inclusive Iraq. But in the short term, why didn't we deal with Stalin because he was not as bad as Hitler in our eyes. We're going to have to have some dialogue with Iranians that say, let's coordinate our efforts, but put a redline to the Iranians. Don't use this crisis to take territory from the Iraqi people. Put them on notice that we will not accept their intervening into Iraq for the purpose of creating a satellite state for Iran.”
            “The Iranians have an interest. They have their Shia populations to protect. We need to all make sure Baghdad doesn't fall so, yes, we need a dialogue of some kind with the Iranians, but we also need to put them on notice don't use this crisis as a way to create a satellite state of Iraq controlled by Iran.”
            June 15, 2014 on CBS’ Face the Nation
Senator John McCain (R- AZ)
     “It would be the height of folly to believe that the Iranian regime can be our partner in managing the deteriorating security situation in Iraq. This is the same Iranian regime that has trained and armed the most dangerous Shia militant groups, that has consistently urged Prime Minister Maliki to pursue a narrow sectarian agenda at the expense of national reconciliation, that supplies the rockets that have been fired at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, that has sponsored acts of terrorism throughout the Middle East and the world, and that continues to use Iraq’s territory and airspace to send weapons and fighters to prop up Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
            “The reality is, U.S. and Iranian interests and goals do not align in Iraq, and greater Iranian intervention would only make the situation dramatically worse. It would inflame sectarian tensions, strengthen the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), drive more Sunnis into ISIS’s ranks, empower the most radical Shia militants, deepen the Iraqi government's dependence on Iran, alienate U.S. allies and partners in the region, and set back the prospects of national reconciliation.
           “For all of these reasons, and more, the United States should be seeking to minimize greater Iranian involvement in Iraq right now, not encouraging it. That means rapid, decisive U.S. action to degrade ISIS and halt their offensive in Iraq. And it means dramatically increasing U.S. military assistance and support to moderate opposition forces in Syria that are fighting both ISIS and the Assad regime. The longer we wait to act, the more our Iraqi partners grow dependent on the Iranian regime. That is neither in our interest nor consistent with the values for which we stand.”
            June 16, 2014 in a statement
President Hassan Rouhani
      “The Islamic Republic will not tolerate violence and terror as foreign-backed takfiri militants wreak havoc in northern Iraq.
      “As the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, we will not tolerate the [acts of] violence and terror and we fight violence and terrorism in the region and in the world.
      “We all should practically and verbally confront terrorist groups. We can think about it [cooperation with the United States] if we see America starts confronting the terrorist groups in Iraq or elsewhere.
      “Iran has never dispatched any forces to Iraq and it is very unlikely it will ever happen.”
            June 14, 2014 during a press conference
            “Regarding the holy Shia shines in Karbala, Najaf, Khadhimiya and Samarra, we announce to the killers and terrorists that the big Iranian nation will not hesitate to protect holy shrines.
            “These terrorist groups, and those that fund them, both in the region and in the international arena, are nothing, and hopefully they will be put in their own place.”
            June 18, 2014 in a speech to a crowd in Lorestan province
            “I advise Muslim countries that support the terrorists with their petrodollars to stop.
            “Tomorrow you will be targeted... by these savage terrorists. Wash your hands of killing and the killing of Muslims.
            “For centuries, Shiites and Sunnis have lived alongside each other in Iran, Iraq, the Levant, Lebanon, the Persian Gulf and North Africa...in peaceful coexistence.”
            June 22, 2014, according to press
            “If the Iraqi government wants help, we will study it; of course no demand has yet been raised until today but we are ready for help within the framework of the international laws and at the request of the Iraqi nation.
            “Of course, we should know that help and assistance is one issue, and interference and entrance [into the battlefield] is another. If the Iraqi government demands us we will help them, but the entrance of the Iranian troops [onto the scene of battles in Iraq] has never been considered.
            “Since the onset of its establishment, the Islamic Republic has never taken such measures and we have never sent our troops to another country for operations. Of course, we will provide countries with our consultative views.”
            June 24, 2014, according to press
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
      “We are strongly against the interference of the US and others in Iraq’s internal affairs and do not approve of it, because we believe that the Iraqi government, nation and religious authority are capable of ending this sedition and will end it, God willing.
      “The United States is dissatisfied with the result of elections in Iraq and they want to deprive the Iraqi people of their achievement of a democratic system, which they achieved without U.S. interference.”
       “What is happening in Iraq is not a war between Shiites and Sunnis. Arrogant powers want to use the remnants of Saddam’s regime and takfiri [ISIS] extremists to deprive Iraq of stability and tranquility.”

      June 22, 2014 at a meeting with judiciary officials



Supreme National Security Council Chief Ali Shamkhani
      “The current crisis in Iraq is the result of the meddling and collaboration of the western and regional enemies of the Iraqi nation, who are seeking to prevent the Iraqi people’s will and determination from coming into action.”
      June 16, 2014 in a meeting with Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani
           “Reports in Western media about possible Iran-U.S. cooperation are part of the West’s “psychological warfare” and are “completely unreal.”
            “As we have announced, we will examine the issue of helping (Iraq) within the framework of international regulations in case of an official request by the Iraqi government and this will be completely a bilateral process and has nothing to do with a third country.”
            June 16, 2014 according to Fars News Agency

Revolutionary Guards Corps Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari
       “It is the opinion of the Commander-in-Chief that no one should aid countries like Syria and Iraq unless the work is limited counselling and advising. The people and governments of these countries can overcome their problems without the aid of any country.”
       June 24, 2014 at a ceremony for martyrs of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
            “It is in the interest of everybody to stabilize the government of Iraq. If the U.S. has come to realize that these groups pose a threat to the security of the region, and if the U.S. truly wants to fight terrorism and extremism, then it’s a common global cause.”
            June 13, 2014 to Robin Wright for The New Yorker



Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Marziyeh Afkham
      “Iraq enjoys the necessary potential and military preparedness to fight against the terrorist and extremist elements. Any move that complicates the situation in Iraq will not be in the interest of Iraq and the region.
       “We believe that the Baghdad government can fully overcome the ongoing crisis in Iraq and thwart conspiracies through consolidation of national unity and internal solidarity.”
            June 14, 2014 to the press
      “Causing insecurity, disrupting democratic trends, overcoming ballot boxes, imposing weapons and terror rather than [promoting] democratic trends, all of these suggest that terrorism is being used today as a tool to overcome people’s votes.
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran condemns the ominous phenomenon of terrorism and believes the first method to counter and eradicate it is for the regional nations to remain vigilant and for countries to boost national unity, and for the international community to pay serious and unbiased attention to this scourge facing humanity.”
            June 25, 2014 to the press
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli
            “Supporting the Iraqi government and nation does not mean sending troops to Iraq. It means condemning terrorist acts and closing and safeguarding our joint borders.”
            June 14, 2014 according to Fars News Agency
Center for Strategic Studies head and Rouhani advisor Hesameddin Ashna
            “If the issue is about confronting extremism and violence, then yes, we’re [the United States and Iran] on the same side, but if it’s about destabilizing the region, then, no we are not.
            Iran would not support a U.S. ground intervention but airstrikes could help the “paralyzed” Iraqi air force.
            June 2014, according to The Washington Post
President Rouhani’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Political Affairs Hamid Aboutalebi
            “The events in Iraq has highlighted a number of hypothesis.
            “First, Iran and America are the only two countries, from a perspective of regional power, that can peacefully end Iraq’s crisis.
            “Second, Iran and America have both ruled out military involvement in Iraq
            “Third, both Iran and America have asked Iraq’s government and Nouri al Maliki to bring the scourge of terrorism and the problems of Iraq to an end.
           “Fourth, the legitimate government of Iraq, in addition to its military capabilities, has potential political solutions worth considering to resolve problems.
            “Fifth, Iran and America have both never disregarded the implicit possibility of cooperation to solve the crisis in Iraq.”
           June 15, 2014 on Twitter according to Al Monitor
Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian
            “We supply Baghdad with necessary consultations but we have no intervention in the country.”
            June 16, 2014 according to Tasnim news agency
            “We will mightily support Iraq in is confrontation with terrorism. We are sure that the Iraqi armed forces will powerfully and effectively crash the terrorist and takfiri forces.”
            June 11, 2014 via state media
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
      “The Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds are our friends [in Iraq].
      “We have always insisted that all ethnic groups must have active and constructive participation in Iraq's power structure".
      “We regard it as unacceptable to deprive any Iraqi ethnic group of their constitutional rights by anyone.”

       June 21, 2014 according to Parliament’s website 

Deputy Commander of Army Ground Forces Brig. Gen. Kiumars Heidari
            “Iranian Army’s Ground Forces are not only closely monitoring the developments in Iraq and the region, but also constantly observe the different threats [coming from around the globe].”
            June 16, 2014 according to Tasnim news agency
Supreme Leader Khamenei’s representative to the Revolutionary Guards Hojjatoleslam Ali Saeedi
            “Saudi Arabia made a lot of efforts to upset the situation in Syria, and Qatar has also made a big investment in this regard, and some other countries made grave mistakes in Syria as well.”
           June 12, 2014 according to Iranian media
Expediency Council Chairman and former President Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
            “We do not want to interfere in the internal affairs of countries and we hope we will be a good mediator to extinguish the flames [of the crisis in Iraq].”
            June 22, 2014 in a meeting with New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully
Interior Ministry Spokesperson Hossein Ali Amiri

            “There is no particular problem along our common border with Iraq; however, the necessary measures have been taken by the Interior Ministry and border police.”

            June 23, 2014, according to press


Basij Militia Commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi

            “The terrorist and anti-Islamic ISIL group is the US’s instrument for sowing discord among Muslims in the region.

            “The US and the Israeli regime seek to use fanatics and anti-Islamic groups to damage the Islamic community.”
June 23, 2014, according to press




Ambassador to Tehran Mohammad Majid al Sheikh

            “These are just the rumors of biased and despiteful media which are seeking to sow discord among the regional states, specially Iran and Iraq.

            “Iraq doesn’t need any country neither for weapons nor for the military forces at all; hence, I emphasize that neither General [Qassem] Soleimani nor any other (Iranian) figure is in Iraq.”
           June 24, 2014, according to press

Photo credits: President.ir, Khamenei.ir, Iran's Ministry of Defense, Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ali Larijani by Harald Dettenborn [CC-BY-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons,


Report: Easing U.S. Sanctions on Iran

            The United States has several ways to suspend or terminate sanction on Iran in the event a final nuclear deal is reached, according to a new Atlantic Council report. But the easiest way for the Obama administration to ease sanctions would be to issue waivers, according to Kenneth Katzman. The administration does not have the power to commit to an outright lifting of sanctions without the involvement of Congress. The following are excerpts from the brief with a link to the full text.

Termination Authority
            The president can terminate some Iran sanctions provisions under existing authority, without specific additional action from the Congress. US sanctions come into force either by congressional enactment of law or by the issuing of an executive order by the president. Sanctions imposed on Iran by executive order were issued under the authority provided to the president by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), a law that gives the president broad authority to restrict transactions with countries for which a “state of emergency” has been declared. President Bill Clinton declared a “state of emergency” with respect to Iran in March 1995, and that declaration has been renewed each year since.
Executive Orders Codified by Law–Not Revocable by Executive Branch Alone
            When an executive order has been codified into law, the administration cannot on its own authority revoke the order and lift the applicable sanctions.
Terminating Application of Sanctions Laws by Executive Action
            Not all US sanctions on Iran that have been imposed by law require congressional action to achieve termination. There are a number of significant sanctions against
Iran, imposed by law, which could be terminated by presidential action alone, were there an administration decision to do so. This is the case for those laws that contain provisions that spell out specific conditions that, if the president determines are met, would terminate application to Iran.
Termination Provisions of the Iran Sanctions Act
            The Iran Sanctions Act (ISA). ISA was enacted in 1996 primarily to deter major foreign energy companies from subscribing to oil and gas field development projects in Iran. Since then, it has been amended numerous times, expanding its authorities to prohibitions on supplying to Iran gasoline and shipping services; supplying Iran energy sector equipment and services, including to produce petrochemicals; supplying to Iran WMD-related technology; participating in a joint venture with Iran to mine or produce uranium; and purchasing or issuing Iranian government bonds. The executive branch does have implementing latitude in that ISA assigns to the administration the authority to investigate and determine violations, within a set time frame.
Removal from the Terrorism List
           As noted above, one of the termination criteria in ISA is that Iran be removed from the “terrorism list,” thereby linking terrorism-related sanctions to the overall issue of sanctions relief as part of a comprehensive nuclear deal. Designation as a state sponsor of terrorism triggers a wide range of sanctions against Iran.
Termination through Expiration or “Sunset”
            Some sanctions contain provisions specifying when their provisions might terminate—a so-called “sunset.” Section 13 of the Iran Sanctions Act states that “This Act shall cease to be effective on December 31, 2016.” The original sunset of ISA was to take place by the end of August 2001—five years after the original enactment of the law. Congress has on two occasions extended the sunset of ISA, most recently from its previous sunset date of December 31, 2011.
Authority to Suspend or Avoid Application of Sanctions
            The president has the authority to choose how to apply or not apply sanctions through the power to make designations of sanctionability. This is considered a “suspension” provision, not a “termination” provision because using this authority does not change the underlying sanctions provision itself, whether imposed by executive order or by law.
            In light of the debate over a nuclear agreement with Iran, the easiest way for the administration to implement sanctions easing negotiated in a final nuclear deal is to exercise its waiver authority. Iran’s main demand is that sanctions no longer apply after a nuclear deal is reached—it is less concerned with the process by which the sanctions are no longer applied. Waiver authority is available for those sanctions that Iran is demanding be eased as part of a nuclear deal, particularly those that have restricted its ability to export oil, to repatriate hard currency held abroad, and to rejoin the international banking system. The expiration of the Iran Sanctions Act at the end of 2016 would also satisfy many of Iran’s demands for sanctions easing. Iran is not demanding, as a condition of a final agreement, that any of the US sanctions laws actually be repealed or amended legislatively. Iran might make such demands over the longer term in order to provide its trading partners with greater certainty.
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