In a recent speech on Iranian television, President Hassan Rouhani declared that he hopes non-nuclear sanctions on his country will be lifted in four years’ time, suggesting that he intends to make use of a clause in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the 2015 agreement with Iran is formally known, that allows some restrictions to be removed two years ahead of schedule to reward good behavior. Ollie Heinonen explains:
Under the terms of the . . . JCPOA, key restrictions would expire when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) formally reaches a “broader conclusion” that Tehran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful. Such a conclusion would result in the lifting of the UN’s remaining non-nuclear sanctions, including the ban on ballistic-missile testing and the conventional-arms embargo. Furthermore, the U.S. and EU would [remove] additional entities from their sanctions lists. Notably, the EU would delist all entities affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the organization responsible for terrorist activities abroad as well as for key aspects of the nuclear program. . . .
Despite the IAEA’s previous conclusion that Iran had, in fact, carried out a wide range of activities “relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device,” the IAEA Board of Governors reached a political decision in December 2015 to close the investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, a decision necessary to ensure the implementation of the JCPOA. This decision has amplified the IAEA’s shortcoming in its ability to form a composite picture of, and thereby to monitor fully, proscribed nuclear weapons-development activities in Iran. Such monitoring and verification is essential to determine the nature of Iran’s nuclear program. . . .
Ultimately, we need to keep in mind the reasons that led the IAEA board to report Iran to the UN Security Council in 2005 and the subsequent actions taken by Iran to defy the Security Council’s numerous resolutions. The international community has been (and should remain) concerned about Iran’s history of noncompliance with [safeguards on its nuclear program], its excessive uranium-enrichment activities beyond any justifiable needs of its known [civilian] nuclear program, its ballistic-missile program, and its aggressive behavior in the region. . . .
[O]nce the IAEA [formally concludes, against all evidence, that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful], restrictions related to Iran’s missile program and conventional-arms trade will be terminated. At the same time, the Islamic Republic will emerge with a more advanced uranium-enrichment program with no clear demonstrable need for such activities. It will [then] be a step closer to nuclear-weapons capability with breakout time gradually dropping to a couple of weeks.