Following Iran's refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment programme, Iran has been subject to a number of years of 'nuclear' and economic sanctions from the UN and the US, EU and Australia among other nations. In July, 2015, Iran entered into an agreement with six countries – the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany, committing to scale down its nuclear programme. Iran's release from sanctions was subject to the receipt of a report by the UN Security Council that it had observed the agreement. That report was released on January 16th 2016, confirming that Iran had "carried out all measures required under the [July deal] to enable Implementation Day [of the nuclear deal, and the formal lifting of the sanctions on Iran] to occur". The United Nations, United States and the European Union have responded to the IAEA report ('The Report'), by suspending economic nuclear sanctions against Iran.

Status of the UN Security Council sanction measures on Iran

  • Some of the UN sanctions implemented since 2006 will be lifted – Iran will now be able to sell oil again on world markets and Iran's banks are permitted to operate globally.
  • The UN Security Council has passed Resolution 2231 which will be used to interpret the Charter of the United Nations (Sanctions- Iran) Regulations 2008 until they are formally amended. Resolution 2231 affirms that Iran must comply with the commitment to refrain from working on ballistic missiles. If there is a breach of any aspect of the Nuclear deal, the UN sanctions will automatically be reinstated and remain in place for at least 10 years.
  • Business with Specified Entities contained within the Charter of the United Nations (Sanctions-Iran) (Specified Entities) List 2010 will no longer be prohibited.  

The US – General sanctions suspended, new sanctions imposed

The US has suspended general economic sanctions against Iran which had previously isolated Iran from the global economic system. The lifting of the US sanctions sets to release banking, steel and shipping routes to Iran which have been barred for the past 5 years.

Notwithstanding the great removal of economic sanctions against Iran, the US has since imposed new sanctions to prevent 11 entities and individuals from using the US banking system. US President Barack Obama announced the new sanctions on Sunday, just one day after lifting the general economic sanctions on Saturday. The 'new' restrictions follow from violations by individuals and companies involved in Iran's ballistic missile program last year.

The EU- Restrictions on trade, shipping and insurance, lifted

The BBC reports that the European Union is following suit and will lift economic sanctions against Iran following the Report. The EU is set to lift restrictions on trade, shipping and insurance with Iran.

Australia – likely to follow the lead of the US and EU

Australia's sanctions on Iran and International obligations

Australia will implement changes according to the UN Security Council Resolution 2231 as detailed above.

Australia's autonomous provisions against Iran

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop stated that Australia will lift its economic sanctions against Iran following the Report to ensure that Australian businesses have the opportunity to access the Iranian market. However, restrictions on the export of arms (and dual use goods) and military exports will remain in force and certain metals and software will remain sanctioned. The list of import and export sanctioned goods will be available in the Autonomous Sanctions (Export Sanctioned Goods- Iran) Amendment Specification 2016 for Iran, once it is gazetted.

The below list summarises those provisions contained within the Autonomous Sanctions Regulations 2011 which will be suspended.

The direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of goods to another person in Iran, for use in Iran or for the benefit of Iran of:

  • Equipment and technology for the oil and gas industry
  • Vessels designed for the transport of storage of oil, gas or petrochemical product.

The supply, sale or transfer of items of gold, precious metals and diamonds to another person and, as a direct or indirect result of the supply, sale or transfer, the goods are transferred to:

  • The government of Iran or
  • A public body, corporation or agency of the government of Iran 

The importation, purchase or transport from Iran of:

  • Crude oil products of a kind specified by the Minister in an instrument under the Autonomous Sanctions Regulations 2011
  • Petroleum and petrochemical products of a kind specified by the Minister
  • Natural gas products of a kind specified by the Minister.

Sanctions against commercial activities such as acquisitions by a person of an interest in an entity engaged in the Iranian petrochemical industry or in the production of crude oil or natural gas, are among those lifted in the commercial context.

For a comprehensive and complete list of suspended sanctions, see page 3 of DFAT's Iran Sanctions document by clicking here.

Information for Australian Exporters

While global companies have been previously prohibited from doing business with Iran, the lifting of economic sanctions will enable Australian businesses to access the Iranian market and export to Iran. Reporting after her trip to Tehran in April 2015, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop expressed that there was a "considerable amount of interest" in Iran to increase trade with Australia.

Exporters are advised to carefully check the list of import and export sanctioned goods once the Autonomous Sanctions (Export Sanctioned Goods- Iran) Amendment Specification 2016 for Iran is gazetted. For further information on trading with Iran and how the sanctions will affect exporting, check the Department of Foreign Affair and Trade's (DFAT) 'Frequently Asked Questions' document. To access this document, click here.