Iran and the major powers achieved an interim deal to freeze some nuclear activity in exchange for some sanctions relief.
“We have reached an agreement,” Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister leading talks in Geneva, said on his Twitter feed early Sunday morning.
According to a White House statement sent to reporters later in the evening, Iran will stop enriching uranium at 20 percent, but will keep enriching at 5 percent or lower.
Iran will neutralize its existing stockpiles of 20 percent enriched uranium and will not install or build any new centrifuges, except to replace damaged machines.
Experts say 5 percent enriched uranium is well below weaponization, but Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said that Iran’s program is advanced enough that even enriching at low levels brings it closer to the weapons breakout point.
Sanctions relief would amount to about $7 billion out of the $100-120 billion that annually impacts Iran’s economy. the White House statement said.
Although some sanctions relief would affect Iran’s energy sector, the statement said the principal sanctions targeting Iran’s banking and energy sectors would remain in place.
The negotiators now have six months to work out a final status deal.
“The agreement reached today between the world powers and Iran is a positive step forward in the diplomatic effort to roll back Iran’s nuclear program,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a senior Member of the Intelligence Committee, in a statement.
He noted, however, that he has “little trust in the Iranian regime, and we will need to scrutinize Iranian behavior to ensure they do not cheat. … At the same time, if Iran’s new President can make good on his stated intention, the next six months could mark a turning point in our relations with Iran of historic significance.”
Similarly, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he has “serious concerns” that this agreement does not meet the standards necessary to protect the United States and its allies.
“Instead of rolling back Iran’s program, Tehran would be able to keep the key elements of its nuclear weapons-making capability. Yet we are the ones doing the dismantling – relieving Iran of the sanctions pressure built up over years,” Royce said in a statement. “This sanctions relief is more lifeline than ‘modest.’ Secretary Kerry should soon come before the Foreign Affairs Committee to address the many concerns with this agreement.”
However, President Obama, in a statement delivered on TV late Saturday night in the United States, said that he would dedicate the time to solving an issue “that has threatened our security and the security of our allies for decades.”
He appealed to Congress not to pass intensified sanctions, saying that to do so would endanger any deal and unravel the alliance that has kept pressure on Iran through sanctions until now.
Obama also said that the “resolve of the United States will remain firm” and so would “the commitment to our allies” which had reason to be skeptical of Iran, naming Israel among them.
JCPA President and CEO Rabbi Steve Gutow released the following statement: “Though Iran has done little to deserve our trust, diplomacy is preferable to military action. At the same time, we support President Obama when he says that no option should be taken off the table. Thus, we believe the interim agreement reached in Geneva today has the potential to serve as a valuable stepping stone to a final agreement that can serve the long term security interests of the United States, Israel, the Middle East and the entire international community. Such a final agreement, which should be negotiated in a tight time frame, must not leave Iran in a position to continue its drive for nuclear weapons capability, or to be able to restart it with ease anytime in the future. The menace of a nuclear armed Iran needs to be eliminated once and for all.”
Said Ori Nir on behalf of Americans for Peace Now: “We congratulate the Obama Administration and its international partners for this important achievement and welcome this demonstration of a new Iranian readiness to seriously negotiate the future of its nuclear program. We believe that anyone who cares about U.S. national security, the security of Israel and stability in the Middle East should likewise welcome this agreement.”