Rouhani has stated as recently as last week that Iran would conclude its work on dismantling nuclear enrichment centrifuges and other changes to the Iranian nuclear program before the end of the year. Western analysts had projected that the full slate of changes would take four to six months, thus making Rouhani’s claims dubious from the outset.
They were made more dubious when Khamenei ordered that conversions to the Arak heavy water plant would not even begin until after the International Atomic Energy Agency issued its report on the possible military dimensions of the nuclear program. And they were made more still more dubious this week when Iranian authorities announced that they had stopped dismantling centrifuges in order to be more broadly in compliance with Khamenei’s orders.
Nevertheless, Tehran appears to be sticking to its arguably unrealistic timeframes, not by accelerating its own efforts but by asserting that other parties will accelerate theirs. On Wednesday, the Kuwait News Agency reported that Reza Najafi, the Iranian ambassador to the IAEA had claimed that the agency’s report would settle the issue of possible military dimensions by the end of November.
But there was no immediate confirmation of this from the IAEA itself, and the report is not actually due until December 15. The issuance of the report on that date would give Iran only two weeks to complete its measures under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and stay true to Rouhani’s claims. And this does not account for any gap in time between Iran’s measures and the actual removal of US-led economic sanctions.
Meanwhile, it is not only the IAEA for whom Iranian officials have spoken in recent days. Agence France-Presse reported on Wednesday that Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan had declared that most of the S-300 missiles that Russia has sold to Iran will be delivered by the end of the year.
Moscow said on Monday that the contract governing that delivery had been signed and was in effect, but it gave no more detail than this. Some analysts interpreted Russia’s vagueness on this matter to be indicative of delaying tactics aimed at retaining the S-300 system as a form of leverage over both Iran and the West.
Even if Russia does intend on delivering the defense system as quickly as possible, it has not outlined its own timeframe. Thus, the Iranian remarks on the subject are likely part of an effort to either pressure Russia to complete the deal or to portray Russian-Iranian defense collaboration as closer and more dangerous to the West than it is in fact.