Iran has taken a big step toward meeting the conditions of the nuclear deal, which is good news for the Iranians who are struggling to meet basic needs under sanctions.
Iran removed the core of its key heavy water reactor in Arak this week. The move, which will largely eliminate Iran’s ability to yield weapons-grade plutonium, was a key step in the Iranian nuclear deal that was reached in July — prompting predictions of sanctions relief for the country in the next few days.
“The core vessel of the Arak reactor has been removed … and IAEA inspectors will visit the site to verify it and report it to the IAEA … We are ready for the implementation day of the deal,” the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Behrouz Kamalvandi, said Thursday on state television, according to Reuters.
“Implementation Day” refers to the point when Iran will have taken all the necessary steps to limit its nuclear program under the terms of the deal. Once verified by the IAEA, Iran will begin to receive relief from U.N., EU, and U.S. nuclear-related sanctions. A senior U.S. administration official told Al-Monitor yesterday that implementation day will be “very, very soon.”
Despite some lawmakers’ rationale that sanctions will hurt the Iranian government, it’s clear they have disproportionately affected ordinary Iranians instead. Sanctions have made it difficult for Iran to obtain and transfer currency into and out of the country, which has led to serious shortages of medicine and medical supplies. A 2013 report by the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars found that imports to Iran from U.S. and European drugmakers decreased by approximately 30 percent in 2012, when international sanctions began to target Iran’s financial institutions. Sanctions were found to have had a significant impact on cancer and hemophilia patients in Iran in particular, as life-saving drugs became increasingly hard to find. A number of other outlets have reported similar disruptions in health services in the country.
Sanctions have impacted ordinary people in other serious ways as well. Iran has been prevented from purchasing spare airplane parts since 1995 due to U.S. sanctions, and as a result, it has seen twenty-eight civilian airplane crashes — in which more than 500 people have died — in the past fifteen years alone. The international sanctions regime has also led to increased air pollution in the country, greater hardship for Iranian students studying abroad, and the rise of a shadow black market in Iran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected primarily on a promise to improve the economy in Iran, which has suffered under sanctions. On Monday, Rouhani stated that sanctions against Iran will end in “days” and the coming year will be one of “economic revival,” according to Bloomberg.
“In a few days, we will see the end of the cruel sanctions against Iran,” Rouhani said in a speech to open natural-gas facilities in the south of Iran. “When sanctions end, I will explain to people how great of an accomplishment this is.”
The Iranian nuclear deal has been described by the White House as historic, as it resolves a decades-long dispute. The deal limits Iran’s nuclear program for at least fifteen years in exchange for sanctions relief for the country.