Iran deal praised … and slammed
Obama welcomes new direction for relations; Israel’s Netanyahu calls it a ‘stunning’ mistake
Iran, the United States and other world powers struck a historic deal Tuesday to curb Iranian nuclear programs and ease fears of a nuclear-armed Iran threatening the volatile Middle East. In exchange, Iran will get billions of dollars in relief from crushing international sanctions.
The accord, reached after long, fractious negotiations, marks a dramatic break from decades of animosity between the United States and Iran, countries that have labeled each other the “leading state sponsor of terrorism” and “the Great Satan.”
“This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction,” President Barack Obama declared at the White House in remarks that were carried live on Iranian state television. “We should seize it.”
In Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said “a new chapter” had begun in his nation’s relations with the world. He maintained that Iran had never sought to build a bomb, an assertion the U.S. and its partners have long disputed.
Beyond the hopeful proclamations from the U.S., Iran and other parties to the talks, there is deep skepticism of the deal among U.S. lawmakers and Iranian hardliners. Obama’s most pressing task will be holding off efforts by Congress to levy new sanctions on Iran or block his ability to suspend existing ones.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, predicted the deal would embolden Iran and fuel a nuclear arms race around the world. It will be difficult for congressional Republicans to stop Obama, however, because of his power to veto legislation.
Israel, which sees Iran as a threat to its existence, strongly opposes leaving the Islamic republic with its nuclear infra- structure in place. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has furiously lobbied against a deal, called the agreement a “stunning historic mistake.”
In a phone call Tuesday, Obama sought to reassure Netanyahu that the agreement doesn’t diminish U.S. concern about Iran’s threats toward Israel and its support for terrorism, the White House said.
Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister told Obama the deal will allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons as well as more money to use in menacing Israel.
Economic effects could be substantial for both Iran and the world.
In trading Tuesday, benchmark U.S. crude oil prices were volatile, falling quickly then rising.
Iran is an OPEC member, but its oil production has been affected for years by sanctions over its nuclear program. Any easing of the sanctions could see Iran sell more oil, which could bring down crude prices. That doesn’t automatically mean lower gasoline prices, however.
Iran also stands to receive more than $100 billion in assets that have been frozen overseas and an end to various financial restrictions on Iranian banks. The nearly 100-page accord announced Tuesday aims to keep Iran from producing enough material for an atomic weapon for at least 10 years and imposes new provisions for inspections of Iranian facilities, including military sites.
The deal was finalized after more than two weeks of furious diplomacy in Vienna. Negotiators blew through three self-imposed deadlines, with top American and Iranian diplomats both threatening at points to walk away from the talks.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who did most of the bargaining with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, said persistence paid off.
“Believe me, had we been willing to settle for a lesser deal we would have finished this negotiation a long time ago,” he told reporters.
A telephone conversation between Rouhani and Obama marked the two countries’ highest diplomatic exchange since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and the ensuing hostage crisis at the American embassy in Tehran.
Jubilant Iranians sing and wave Iran flags during street celebrations in Tehran, Iran, following news of a landmark nuclear deal Tuesday.