U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif as he prepares to leave the Austria Center in Vienna, Austria, on July 14, 2015, after the European Union, United States, and the rest of its P5+1 partners reached agreement on a plan to prevent Iran from obtai.
(photo credit: STATE DEPARTMENT PHOTO)
WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama directed his cabinet on Sunday to prepare for implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, formally adopting the pact in word months before sealing the deal in deed.
“Adoption day” ushers in the first phase of the deal, during which Iran is meant to take a series of specific steps toward “restraining” its nuclear program, one senior administration official said over the weekend. Those steps include neutering its plutonium reactor; reducing its nuclear enrichment capacity and stockpile; and increasing access and transparency at its declared nuclear facilities.
As soon as Iran completes all of these steps – a process the Obama administration believes will take between two and six months – the deal will be formally implemented, and Iran will begin receiving sanctions relief.
Marking adoption day – 90 days after the United Nations Security Council formally codified the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – Obama told his secretaries of energy, treasury, state and commerce to “take all appropriate additional measures to ensure the prompt and effective implementation of the US commitments set forth in the JCPOA, in accordance with US law.”
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“In particular,” he wrote in the directive, “subject to the requirements of applicable US law, I hereby direct you to take all necessary steps to give effect to the US commitments with respect to sanctions.”
The JCPOA is intended to cap, restrict, monitor and substantially roll back Iran’s nuclear program for 10 years in exchange for sanctions relief, which Iran’s government wants quickly. Its president, Hassan Rouhani, is said by his aides to be aiming for implementation day before a parliamentary election in February.
“It is our estimate that that will be at least months,” a senior administration told reporters on Saturday.
“Whether Iran can work very quickly and try to get that done in the month-and-ahalf or two months that we’ve heard them talk about publicly will remain to be seen.
“We’d be delighted if it happened that quickly,” the official added, “but our focus remains on it being done correctly more than it being done quickly, and we will not provide sanctions relief until each and every one of those nuclear steps is satisfied and has been verified to be completed by the IAEA.”
Iran also was required to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency– the UN body tasked with policing the deal – with enough access for its agents to produce a complete, independent report on Iran’s past military nuclear work. Implementation of the JCPOA is not contingent on any findings, or lack thereof, in the IAEA report, due out in mid-December.
Iran completed that process on October 15, according to the IAEA. The US says it cannot verify the completeness or quality of the data provided by Iran.
A meeting of the JCPOA’s Joint Commission, comprised of delegates from each signatory of the agreement, will meet in Vienna on Monday to discuss the path to implementation.
Ambassador Stephen D. Mull, lead negotiator of implementation for the United States, will represent the Obama administration, across the table from Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi.
In a short statement to the press, Obama praised adoption day for the agreement as “an important milestone.”
“Today, Iran begins to take the steps necessary to implement its JCPOA commitments, including removing thousands of centrifuges and associated infrastructure, reducing its enriched uranium stockpile from approximately 12,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms, and removing the core of the Arak heavy-water reactor and filling it with concrete so that it cannot be used again, among other steps,” he said.
“These next steps will allow us to reach the objectives we set out to achieve over the course of nearly two years of tough, principled diplomacy,” he continued, “and will result in cutting off all four pathways Iran could use to develop enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.”