EU sanctions relief for Iran to go into effect January 20, but IAEA says it has insufficient access for verifying Iran’s nuclear program

Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Reza Najafi

European Union governments will implement all EU sanctions relief for Iran covered by a landmark nuclear deal on Jan. 20, the day the agreement takes effect – including lifting a ban on insuring its oil, officials said on Monday.

Under the Nov. 24 accord, the EU will suspend for six months a ban on insuring and transporting Iranian oil, as well as a trade ban affecting the country’s petrochemicals, gold and other precious metals.

The accord will go into effect next Monday provided the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog, confirms Iran is carrying out its part of the deal, meaning curbing its most sensitive nuclear work.

“Everything the EU does goes into effect on Jan. 20,” one EU official said.

Oil markets are watching the insurance provisions closely because Europe’s Protection and Indemnity (P&I) clubs provide cover for most of the global oil tanker market.

However: The U.N. nuclear watchdog’s increased access in Iran to monitor a landmark agreement with world powers still falls short of what it says it needs to investigate suspicions that Tehran may have worked on designing an atomic bomb. It is also a far cry from the wide-ranging inspection powers the International Atomic Energy Agency had in Iraq in the 1990s to help unearth and dismantle Saddam Hussein’s clandestine nuclear program after the first Gulf war.

Nevertheless, the IAEA will see its role in Iran expand significantly under the November 24 interim accord between the country and the six major powers, the implementation of which will start next Monday.

Since the deal is only preliminary, the IAEA and its investigation may gain more prominence in later talks on a final settlement of the decade-old dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, but it remains to be seen how far it will go. “This is just an appetizer, I guess … a starter,” former chief U.N. nuclear inspector Herman Nackaerts said.

Talks will “very likely” resume in February.