After several extensions of the original June 30th deadline and seemingly intractable deadlocks for the parties involved, the P5+1 nations have finally reached a definitive agreement with Iran over the future of its nuclear program after 20 months. The deal will allegedly limit the rogue regime’s nuclear program in exchange for eased economic sanctions, ending more than a decade of tempestuous negotiations.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who spearheaded efforts to broker an accord, told a packed news conference in Vienna on Tuesday that, “This is the good deal we had sought.”
After nearly three weeks of meetings, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini stood beside Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif to announce the agreement, which will cut back Tehran’s nuclear program and require oversight by the U.N. nuclear agency.
Senior US administration officials said that the deal will limit Iran’s potential development of nuclear weapons while allowing the country to maintain a civilian atomic program, dramatically scaling back the number of Tehran’s advanced centrifuges by two-thirds.
The agreement, a focal point of President Obama’s foreign policy, appears set to reshape relations between Iran and the West, with its effects likely to ripple across the volatile Middle East.
Like Kerry and Mogherini, the Iranian foreign minister also spoke of the deal as a new diplomatic beginning for the countries involved, calling it “not a ceiling but a solid foundation.”
“We must now begin to build on it,” he posted to Twitter after Tuesday’s news conference.
Obama praised the deal reached Tuesday morning, saying the agreement met the goals he had in place throughout negotiations, according to a CNN report.
“Today after two years of negotiation the United States together with the international community has achieved something that decades of animosity has not: a comprehensive long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Obama said from the White House, with Vice President Joe Biden at his side.
“This deal is not built on trust. It’s built on verification,” Obama said.
Praising Obama for his leadership on this issue, Secretary Kerry said the president “had the courage to launch this process, believe in it, support it, encourage it, when many thought the objective was impossible, and who led the way from the start to the finish.”
Under economically crippling economic sanctions, Iran’s strained diplomatic relations with the U.S. and the Western countries involved in the talks – Britain, France, and Germany – and the demands by negotiators on both sides at times threatened to thwart the Vienna talks.
One contentious point – access by monitors to Iran’s nuclear sites – was ultimately addressed with the creation of a mechanism that will allow the U.N. to push for entry, but that gives Iran the right to challenge the request through arbitration.
The deal also addresses U.N. embargos on conventional weapons, which Iran – backed by Russia – sought to remove. It upholds the arms ban for five more years and the missile ban for eight, but could end earlier if the IAEA determines Iran complied with the terms of the nuclear deal, which includes dismantling any current work toward nuclear weapons – a charge Tehran has repeatedly denied.
In exchange, P5+1 countries agreed to lift economic sanctions on the country, in part by unfreezing billions of dollars in assets abroad as soon as Iran complies with the requirements of the nuclear agreement.
In a televised address, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani praised the agreement as well, saying “a new chapter” had begun in the country’s foreign relations.
After news of the deal emerged, Yukiya Amano, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he had signed a “roadmap” with the Iranian government “for the clarification of past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program.”
Senior administration officials described a late-night phone call from the Secretary of State to President Obama, and a moment in the talks when Zarif, Mogherini and Kerry asked all their staff to leave the negotiations table to confer alone on the final details of the agreement.
By the end of the night, as the deal was largely finalized, negotiators were too exhausted for a “triumphant” celebration, a senior U.S. official said.
Tuesday’s agreement represents a historic compromise after a 12-year standoff that has, at times, threatened to provoke a new conflict in the Middle East. It will take effect only after it clears several hurdles in Washington as well as Tehran. Conservatives in both capitals have fought against making the compromises needed to reach the agreement.
The greatest hurdle will be the Congress, where Republicans have a majority and are expected to vote against the deal after a review period of up to 60 days. President Obama is expected to veto any negative vote as pundits have opined that the president believes the successful conclusion of this deal marks his signature foreign policy achievement during his nearly eight years in office.
In Tehran, the deal will need the clear backing of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to fend off any objections from hardliners suspicious of an accord with the United States after decades of hostility and mistrust.
Fielding questions about a potential opposition vote in Congress, and Iran’s ability to follow the accord, Secretary Kerry said he felt confident lawmakers would not oppose the accord, which Mogherini said would be made public in its entirety on Tuesday.
“We have put in place ample mechanisms with respect to compliance, and respect to accountability,” he said. “I feel very confident about our ability to protect our interests.”
But Kerry also warned that “if Iran fails in a material way to live up” to its commitments under the agreement, sanctions “will snap right back into place.”
Meanwhile Tuesday, Iran and the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog signed an agreement aimed at answering questions about possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has tried for years to get answers in its probe, including access to the Parchin military site, but has faced resistance from Iran.
Meanwhile, Jewish organizations throughout the world have weighed in on the nuclear deal with Iran as did its most vocal critic, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder voiced strong skepticism about the agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries. Lauder said: “We are still looking forward to getting all the details of this agreement, with the hope that the verification process will allow inspectors to determine Iran’s true aims.”
He added that, “So far, this agreement is just a piece of paper. It is not a legally binding treaty, and there is no reason to trust Iran over its implementation. Tehran has a long history of misleading the world. Last Friday’s government-sponsored ‘Quds Day’ rallies, in which the masses again shouted ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel,’ are a good example of why we shouldn’t be overly optimistic.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said the agreement appears to “fall far short” of assuring that Iran will not become a nuclear weapon state. Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL National Chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement: “We are deeply disappointed by the terms of the final deal with Iran announced today which seem to fall far short of the President’s objective of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon state. The thrust of the deal relies entirely on Iran’s good faith and the ability of the IAEA to effectively carry out its inspection obligations.”
In a totally expected scathing critique of the agreement with Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of an emergency security cabinet meeting he convened following news of the deal that “the world is a much more dangerous place today than it was yesterday,”
INN reported that Netanyahu said that world powers have “gambled that in 10 years time Iran’s terrorist regime will change – while removing any initiative for it to do so! In fact the deal gives Iran every incentive not to change.”
Netanyahu fired that the deal will fuel “Iran’s sponsorship of terror and attempts to destroy Israel,” citing as proof statements to that effect made by Iranian officials and allies including Hezbollah.
“This deal repeats the mistakes made with North Korea,” he intoned. “There, too, we were assured that inspections and verifications would prevent a rogue regime from developing nuclear weapons. And we all know how that ended. The bottom line of this very bad deal is exactly what Iran’s President Rouhani said today: the international community is removing the sanctions, and Iran is keeping its nuclear program.”
“The deal will give an unreformed, unrepentant and far richer terrorist regime the capacity to produce many nuclear bombs – in fact, an entire nuclear arsenal, with the means to deliver it. What a stunning historic mistake. Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran, because Iran continues to seek our destruction,” he warned.
“We will always defend ourselves.”
Earlier Tuesday, at a press conference in Jerusalem with visiting Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, Netanyahu decried the deal as a “bitter mistake of historic proportions.”
Other prominent Israeli ministers similarly slammed the deal as a “historic capitulation.”
Just a day earlier on Monday, the prime minister declared that Israel will block Iran’s path to the nuclear bomb regardless of the deal, saying, “our commitment is to prevent Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons.”
INN reported that the first GOP Congressman to issue a full statement on the agreement was Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the most prominent critics of the Obama administration’s conduct during talks, as well as the deal itself as its form began to take shape over the past several months.
In his statement, released Tuesday afternoon, Corker said he would reserve full judgment until after reading the full text of the deal, but said he was deeply pessimistic it would be a good deal for the US and its allies.
“Throughout these negotiations, I have expressed significant concerns to the administration about the crossing of red line after red line as we have moved from a goal of dismantling Iran’s nuclear capabilities to managing its proliferation,” Corker said.
“I want to read the agreement in detail and fully understand it, but I begin from a place of deep skepticism that the deal actually meets the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Noting that the deal was subject to Congressional review – thought President Obama could well choose to veto a vote against it – Corker vowed it would be vigorously scrutinized.
“In the coming days, Congress will need to scrutinize this deal and answer whether implementing the agreement is worth dismantling our painstakingly-constructed sanctions regime that took more than a decade to establish.
“Iran continues to be the lead sponsor of terrorism in the world and relieving sanctions would make the Tehran regime flush with cash and could create a more dangerous threat to the United States and its allies.”
The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (Public Law 114-17), authored by Corker, prevents the president from waiving or suspending congressional sanctions on Iran before Congress has the chance to approve or disapprove of a final agreement.
“The review period does not begin until all documents associated with an agreement are submitted to Congress along with assessments on compliance and non-proliferation. Once all documents are received, Congress will have 60 days for the initial review. Twelve additional days are provided if the House and Senate send a joint resolution to the president, and 10 more days are allowed for Congress to override a presidential veto.”
Meanwhile GOP Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee issued a more scathing rebuke of the Obama administration.
“Shame on the Obama admin for agreeing to a deal that empowers an evil Iranian regime to carry out its threat to wipe Israel off the map,” Huckabee tweeted.
“As president, I will stand with Israel and keep all options on the table, including military force, to topple the terrorist Iranian regime,” he vowed.
Fellow GOP presidential hopeful Senator Marco Rubio also harshly criticized Obama for negotiating “from a position of weakness.”
Also responding was Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, who slammed the agreement as a “bad deal,” which would empower Iran to up its support of global terrorism.
And Congressman Peter Roskam (IL-06), co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus said: “Nearly two years ago, I cautioned the Obama administration against striking a nuclear deal with Iran that shifts our longstanding policy of prevention to a dangerous policy of containment.”
“The final agreement reached today marks a U-turn on economic sanctions that were working to cripple Iran’s economy and force meaningful, permanent concessions from the regime. In fact, this deal all but ensures Iran will become a nuclear power in our lifetime, defeating from the outset the Obama administration’s own long-stated goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.
“In the coming years, Tehran will receive billions in additional sanctions relief and regain the ability to buy and sell not only conventional weapons, but also ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead – all with explicit support of the U.S government, until now an unthinkable proposition.