The United States and European Union began easing some economic sanctions against Iran on Monday as Tehran announced that it has ceased certain nuclear activities that it agreed to halt as part of its breakthrough deal with western powers.
The announcement that the plan for sanctions relief was activated came after the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed Monday that Iran had met its part of a November agreement. The deal called for Iran to cease enrichment of uranium above 5%, begin the process of diluting some of its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium, and verify that it has not installed additional centrifuges at two key nuclear facilities.
"These actions represent the first time in nearly a decade that Iran has verifiably enacted measures to halt progress on its nuclear program and roll it back in key respects," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. "Iran has also begun to provide the IAEA with increased transparency into the Iranian nuclear program, through more frequent and intrusive inspections and the expanded provision of information to the IAEA. Taken together, these concrete actions represent an important step forward."
Some lawmakers and Iran watchers backing tighter sanctions against Tehran say the impact could be even greater than the $7 billion advertised as Iran's economy has shown signs of recovery. Easing of sanctions has led to a "changing market psychology, and expectations of more economic relief to come," according to a new report from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), a group that backs tighter sanctions.
The World Bank projects that Iran's real 2014 GDP is expected to grow by 1% after a recession in 2012 and 2013. The Iranian economy is further projected to grow by 1.8% in 2015 and another 2% in 2016, according to the report.
The argument, which has been made by groups such as FDD, is that as Iran's economy continues to improve, the Iranian leadership would have less incentive to negotiate a comprehensive nuclear deal.