Iran Weapons Probe End Sets Stage for Nuclear Deal to Begin

  • IAEA monitors to conclude next stage of investigation Thursday
  • Nuclear accord with world powers to be adopted on Oct. 18

United Nations investigators are set on Thursday to end their probe into Iran’s nuclear past, taking the next step toward the lifting of oil and financial sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.

International Atomic Energy Agency monitors have until Oct. 15 to collect information and question Iranian authorities about possible military dimensions of past nuclear activities, according to a July 14 agreement between Iran and the IAEA. Inspectors will then have until Dec. 15 to draft and present a final assessment of their inquiry.

Iran’s nuclear work has been the focus of IAEA scrutiny since February 2003, when Iranian officials told inspectors visiting Tehran of their plans to begin enriching uranium on an industrial scale. Subsequent discoveries that Iran had secretly procured nuclear materials and technologies led to years of mistrust. In May 2008 and again in November 2011, the IAEA publicly disclosed its suspicions about Iran’s activities.

Concluding the IAEA investigation will set the stage for the broader deal between Iran and world powers to enter into force on Oct. 18, so-called “Adoption Day,” when both sides begin implementing their commitments. The U.S. and Europe have pledged to draft legislation lifting financial and energy sanctions.

In Iran, engineers and technicians will have to begin mothballing centrifuges at the Natanz and Fordo enrichment facilities as well as retrofitting a heavy-water reactor in Arak. They’ll also need to reduce their stockpile of enriched uranium -- the core material needed to generate nuclear power and weapons -- by more than 95 percent before sanctions relief takes effect.

Sanctions against Iran will probably be lifted within the first three months of 2016, after the IAEA has confirmed the nation has curtailed its nuclear work, diplomats said last month. Once the restrictions are removed, relief is expected to fuel economic growth in the country of 77 million people by lowering barriers to Iran’s oil exports and ending the isolation of its banks.

Iran’s 12-member Guardian Council, which needs to approve passage of all legislation, on Wednesday endorsed implementation of the nuclear deal. Parliamentarians in Iran’s Majlis, or parliament, had approved the agreement earlier this week.

Timeline to lifting sanctions:

  • Oct. 18 -- “Adoption Day” for July accord signed with world powers. Parties to the agreement begin meeting their commitments.
  • 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 board will use “with a view to closing the issue.”
  • Late 2015-early 2016 -- Oil sanctions to be lifted on so-called “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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