The IAEA confirmed Monday that Iran has officially ceased all uranium enrichment beyond 5 percent in line with the Nov. 24 “Joint Plan of Action” (JPOA). Iran has also begun diluting its current stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium, and the IAEA has commenced daily inspections at Iran’s Natanz and Fordow enrichment facilities.
In exchange, Iran will begin to receive limited, reversible sanctions relief as detailed in a fact sheet issued by the State Department today.
Importantly, a White House spokesman stressed today that the "aggressive enforcement" of the remaining sanctions would continue.
"Iran is not and will not be open for business until it reaches a comprehensive agreement."
If the agreement breaks down for any reason, Iran will see both a reversal of any sanctions relief, and a tough new round of additional sanctions. (Additional sanctions that it will be lucky to hold off until then.)
With the official implementation of the agreement, the clock is now ticking. If the two sides fail to come to a comprehensive agreement within six months, they will have one chance to extend by six months. But politically that chance will be fragile. Congressional sanctions may hold off for now, but any sign of delay from Iran is likely to spur them on. The two sides would be well advised to move quickly, but a deal will not come easily.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the negotiations would be "even more complex" from here on out, and added: “We go into it clear-eyed about the difficulties ahead."
But ultimately -- even if talks do eventually break down -- the most important fact remains. The implementation of the JPOA this week ensures that Iran’s program will not continue to advance over the course of the next six months.
And that alone is a big win for national security.