Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threw his authority behind the country’s nuclear accord with world powers for the first time, while issuing a warning over the removal of sanctions.

In a statement addressed to President Hassan Rouhani and published by state news agencies, Khamenei said he appreciated the work of Iran’s diplomats in securing the deal. But he said the government should remain vigilant over any failure to deliver on commitments to remove sanctions by European nations and the U.S.

“Any assertion stating that the sanctions structure will remain constitutes a violation” of the accord, he said. The July 14 agreement had already won the backing of Iran’s parliament, national security body and Guardian Council, which vets all policy.

Iran’s final arbiter on all issues, Khamenei had previously stopped short of publicly endorsing the accord while expressing his support for the diplomatic team who negotiated it over two years. His backing now, months before elections for a parliament dominated by conservatives opposed to Iran’s ties with Western nations, may bolster Rouhani and his allies.

Khamenei is saying that “Iran will walk away from continued implementation of the deal if sanctions are not eased as promised or the snap-back mechanisms are abused,” Ellie Geranmayeh, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations in London, said by e-mail. In doing so, he’s “balanced his support to Rouhani and the deal with hardline camps concerned about the extent to which Iran engaged the West,” she said.

The supreme leader said that modifications to the heavy-water reactor at Arak, and the transfer and elimination of Iran’s stockpiles of enriched nuclear materials will only happen once the International Atomic Energy Agency has finalized its assessment of potential military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. Iran says its atomic work has always been purely peaceful.

IAEA monitors this month ended their 12-year investigation into Iran’s past nuclear activity. Inspectors now have until Dec. 15 to draft and present a final assessment of their inquiry.

Timeline to lifting sanctions:

  • Nov. 30 -- Iran prepares to end testing of advanced centrifuge cascades and store machines under IAEA seal.
  • Dec. 15 -- IAEA to present its assessment of Iran’s past nuclear activities, which agency will use “with a view to closing the issue.”
  • Late 2015-early 2016 -- Oil sanctions to be lifted on “Implementation Day.” U.S. officials have suggested it will take at least two months from “Adoption Day” to reach this point.
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