Iran halts most sensitive nuclear work, triggering US, EU sanctions relief

The IAEA confirmed that Iran stopped production of uranium enriched to 20 percent, a precursor to negotiations for a final nuclear deal.

Kazem Ghane/IRNA/AP
Unidentified International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors and Iranian technicians are on hand to cut the connections between the twin cascades for 20 percent uranium enrichment at Natanz facility, some 200 miles south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Monday, Jan. 20. Iran has halted its most sensitive uranium enrichment work as part of a landmark deal struck with world powers, state TV said Monday.

Iran halted its most sensitive nuclear work today, suspending nuclear advancement for the first time in nearly a decade and starting a six-month countdown to the deadline for forging a comprehensive deal with world powers.

United Nations inspectors fanned out across Iran to inspect nuclear facilities, where state TV showed rubber-gloved Iranian scientists stopping production of uranium enriched to 20 percent purity – a few technical steps from bomb-grade – and inspectors tying seals on the equipment.

Shortly after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran had taken those steps and begun diluting its 20-percent stockpile, modest sanctions relief by the US and European Union kicked in, in accordance with the deal signed on Nov. 24 in Geneva. 

“This is an important first step, but more work will be needed to fully address the international community’s concerns regarding the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program,” said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in a statement.

The negotiations for a final deal, intended to permanently prevent Iran from ever being able to make a nuclear weapon in exchange for lifting crippling sanctions, start next month.

Iran will get $4.2 billion of its oil revenue frozen in overseas accounts over the course of the next six months. Sanctions on petrochemical and gold and other precious metal deals, airplane parts, and automobiles -- worth another $2 billion to $3 billion, according to White House figures -- will also be lifted. The most damaging core sanctions on financial dealings and oil exports will remain in place, and Iran is expected to lose $30 billion in the course of this deal.

While Iran’s centrist President Hassan Rouhani has described the accord as win-win, and its signing was greeted with jubilation by Iranians hoping it will ease economic pressure and put off the threat of war, it has been criticized as a sell-out by some. Hard-line media presented the deal as an Iranian defeat.

Vatan-e Emrouz, for example, published its masthead today surrounded by the mourning color of black, with the banner headliner “Nuclear holocaust.” It accused Iran’s negotiating team of lying and said Iran got the losing side in the deal, by giving up “more than 60 percent” of its enrichment activity, with little taken in return.

“While we remove the concerns of the US and Israel, Iran’s concerns remain,” the newspaper wrote. It claimed that Iran would be forced to close the “majority” of its nuclear sites, and that the interim deal showed the extent that Iran’s “plans and achievements” would be “destroyed.”

Removing the stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium was the “best news” for Israel, it read.

Similar complaints were raised in Kayhan, whose editor is a representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and who last month told the Monitor that Iran’s nuclear team had been “ripped off” in Geneva.

Kayhan said Mr. Rouhani’s recent characterization of the deal as “surrender” by world powers before Iran’s might was difficult to justify, when – in Kayhan’s view – Iran was giving so much, and got in return things of “little importance.”

Under the deal, Iran can still enrich uranium to 5 percent, a level suitable for power production but not weapons. That compromise – which will almost certainly leave a sizable enrichment capacity in Iran under any final deal – has raised concerns in the US Congress and in Israel.

Although the White House and many Iran experts say the deal may be the only chance for a diplomatic solution with Iran, the Senate is considering passing a bill that would impose new sanctions if Iran does not comply. Although the additional sanctions would only go into effect if Iran flouted the terms of the deal, its leaders have called the bill a violation of the spirit of the Geneva agreement.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Iran halts most sensitive nuclear work, triggering US, EU sanctions relief
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today