The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency in Vienna was expected to certify by Saturday that Tehran has met its commitments under the July accord with global powers to significantly scale back its nuclear program, according to these officials.
In return, most Western sanctions on Iran will start to be repealed, sending tens of billions of dollars in frozen Iranian oil money back to Tehran and opening world markets to hundreds of thousands of barrels of Iranian petroleum.
The White House says the implementation of the agreement would be a major advance in the U.S. campaign to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. But its also poses major security and diplomatic risks for the U.S. and its close Mideast allies, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to regional diplomats and analysts.
“Every country in the world is worried about this,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in London on Thursday, referring to the return of frozen assets. “The concern in most countries in the world is that Iran not use these funds in order to fund destabilization activities, but instead use the funds to improve the well-being of its people.”
Iran and Saudi Arabia are in an escalating conflict marked by proxy wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Arab diplomats fear the unshackling of Tehran’s economy will allow Iran’s theocratic leaders to play an even more assertive role in their region.
American officials have voiced optimism the deal could breed stronger relations between Washington and Tehran after four decades of enmity, sparked by the 1979 Islamic revolution and the taking of hostages at the U.S. embassy there.
“All parties have continued making steady progress toward implementation day of the [agreement], which will ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Friday.
An Iranian negotiator, Hamid Baeidnejad, tweeted Friday that “the landmark agreement is on the way.”
To mark the expected milestone, Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Vienna on Saturday, according to U.S. officials, where he will meet his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, and the European Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini.