KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
The Iranian nuclear deal cleared another hurdle today. It got approval from Iran's parliament. The vote was decisive despite some opposition from hardliners. And this comes before the official signpost in implementing the deal. Under the agreement, Sunday is called adoption day. Here's NPR's Peter Kenyon with that and more dates on the Iranian nuclear timeline.
PETER KENYON, BYLINE: This adoption day is not a moment Tehran wants to call a lot of attention to. The whole point of the nuclear accord for Iran to get out from under an extraordinary web of international economic sanctions. The price it agreed to pay, sharply reducing and opening up its nuclear program, is much less popular. President Hassan Rouhani would rather focus on the benefits of rejoining the world economy, as he did earlier this year, heard here through an interpreter.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
HASSAN ROUHANI: (Through interpreter) With the final agreement - which, if the other side has a serious will, in the coming months will be possible - the situation of manufacturing in Iran will be much improved. The dealers of sanctions should think of another job, from right now.
KENYON: But what's starting now is something very different. Iran has to make big changes at three key nuclear facilities. Mark Fitzpatrick at the International Institute for Strategic Studies calls them three momentous tasks.
MARK FITZPATRICK: One is removing about 14,000 centrifuges from Natanz and Fordow. Another is getting rid of almost 12,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, either shipping it out to Russia or diluting it to a natural state. And the third is removing the core of the reactor at Arak and filling it with concrete.
KENYON: Fitzpatrick says that last step - removing and disabling the Arak reactor's core, known as a calandria - is, for practical purposes, irreversible, given the scrutiny they'll be under.
FITZPATRICK: Iran has no incentive at all to replace the calandria at Arak, unless they were hell-bent on having a plutonium path to nuclear weapons. So it's very good that they've agreed to have a different kind of a reactor so that they can't produce plutonium. It's a very big nonproliferation step.
KENYON: Iran will also be left with just a small fraction of its previous stockpile of the other main type of nuclear fuel - enriched uranium. Iran will have to submit to intrusive inspections aimed at ensuring that no nuclear material is diverted to a covert weapons program. Iran says it never had such a program, but that claim may be tested in mid-December. That's when the U.N. nuclear agency is due to report on Iran's past nuclear activities and whether any of the work was weapons related.
But nuclear experts are already looking farther ahead and seeing pitfalls for the agreement, possibly in the form of new congressional sanctions on Iran or perhaps a new American president who's not inclined to follow through with the Iran deal. Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, last month addressed that last concern while on a visit to New York. His comments were carried by Iran's press TV.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: (Through interpreter) I can say that in accordance with the international law once the government of any country makes a commitment the next government also has the obligation to accept and take on and continue to respect that commitment. And the U.S. government has already accepted to stop sanctions on Iran.
KENYON: Analyst Mark Fitzpatrick warns of unforeseen developments. What if the Lebanese Hezbollah militia used Iranian-supplied missiles to attack Israeli cities? In that case, he says, anger at Iran could easily boil over into retaliation that would derail the deal. And what about the sanctions relief that Iranians are still waiting for? That will come on implementation day, an unspecified date that can only be set once the U.N. has certified that Iran has met its nuclear obligations. Analysts predict that won't happen until late winter or even spring. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.