14 Jul 2015

Obama and Rouhani hail Vienna nuclear deal on Iran

President Barack Obama calls today’s Iran nuclear agreement a “comprehensive deal”, while President Rouhani says a “new chapter” has begun in his country’s relations with the world.

The UK, US, France, China, Russia and Germany have reached a deal granting Tehran economic sanctions relief in exchange for a curb on its nuclear programme.

Under the agreement, which has taken months to finalise, sanctions imposed by the US, EU and United Nations would be lifted in return for Iran scaling back its nuclear activities to ensure that it cannot build a nuclear bomb.

UN inspectors would have also access to all suspect Iranian sites, including military ones, but Iran could challenge its request for access.

The international sanctions currently in place have crippled Iran’s economy for more than a decade, slashing the country’s oil exports. Negotiations between Iran and the six world powers, known as the P5+1 group, begun in 2006.

Deal prevents ‘more war’

US President Barack Obama outlined the deal in a statement from the White House today saying the agreement prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. He said no deal “would mean a greater chance of more war in the Middle East” and he is prepared to use force in the interest of national security.

Iranian Prime Minister Hassan Rouhani said the deal opened a “new chapter” in Iran’s relationship with the world and urged neighbouring countries to ignore what he called propaganda by Israel saying Iran had a shared interest in the stability of the region.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Iran, gave his support calling it a “major turning point” in the history of Iran.

“We are confident that the Islamic Republic of Iran will support, with greater drive, just causes of nations and work for peace and stability in the region and the world.” he said.

Shia powers in Iran have provided financial and diplomatic support to Assad and backed Hezbollah fighters in conflict.

The United Arab Emirates has also congratulated Iran on the agreement, marking the first official comment by Gulf Arab countries towards the deal.

Current sanctions

Sanctions on Iran have targeted the country’s key energy and financial sectors, damaging its economy.

The UN sanctions on Iran include a ban on supplying heavy weaponry and nuclear related technology to the country, and a block on arms exports and trade. They have also frozen the assets of key individuals and companies.

The EU has imposed its own sanctions, which restrict trade on equipment that could be used for uranium enrichment. There is an asset freeze on individuals and organisations that the EU believes have helped develop Iran’s nuclear programme, and a ban on transactions with Iranian banks and financial institutions.

A trade embargo banned Iran from buying western aircraft and has had a huge impact on the country’s aviation industry. Purchasing, importing and transporting Iranian crude oil and natural gas is also banned. Japan and South Korea have also imposed sanctions similar to those of the EU.

But under the new agreement, bans on Iran’s aviation will be lifted after three decades. Bans on Iran’s central bank, the National Iranian Oil Company, Iran Shipping Lines and a number of other institutions will also be lifted, the Iranian state news agency IRNA reported.

‘Historic mistake’

The deal comes after round-the-clock talks between the US Secretary of State Jon Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for nearly three weeks.

Mr Zarif said the deal for Iran was a “historic moment” and “a new chapter of hope”, and Mr Kerry said the US will continue to support key allies in the Middle East, marking the deal as a step away from conflict.

A roadmap has also been drawn up by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), meaning it will provide a report on Iran’s nuclear history and tackle any remaining issues by the end of the year.

“By 15 December 2015, the director general will provide the final assessment on the resolution of all past and present outstanding issues,” the IAEA’s Yukiya Amano said.

But the agreement has been met with some hostility from the Middle East, with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu calling the deal a “historic mistake”.

“Iran will get a jackpot, a cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars, which will enable it to continue to pursue its aggression and terror in the region and in the world. This is a bad mistake of historic proportions,” he said.

The deal has faced a backlash from critics in the US and Israel as US Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham called the agreement a “death sentance for Israel”and it will “make everything worse.”

US Republican House Speaker criticised Mr Obama, accusing him of “abandoning his own goals for a deal in the course of the negotiations.”

Israel has been at the forefront of blocking any accord which lifts the sanctions on Iran and plans to ramp up its lobbying of the US Congress to reject the deal.

Minister of public security and a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, Gilad Erdan, told Israel’s Army Radio that Israel will “focus and explain all of the holes in this agreement, which will just intensify terrorism and increase Middle East chaos”.