Obama Puts Positive Spin on Historic Iran Deal

GENEVA (AP/Hamodia) -
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrives for talks about Iran’s nuclear program in Geneva on Friday. (Reuters/Fabrice Coffrini)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrives for talks about Iran’s nuclear program in Geneva on Friday. (Reuters/Fabrice Coffrini)

‘Disappointed’ Schumer vows further sanctions push

Iran struck a historic deal Sunday with the United States and five other world powers, agreeing to a temporary freeze of its nuclear program in the most significant agreement between Washington and Tehran in more than three decades of estrangement.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Sunday he is “disappointed” with the deal reached, describing it as overly generous to the Iranian regime.

“I am disappointed by the terms of the agreement between Iran and the P5+1 nations because it does not seem proportional,” Schumer said in a statement.

“Iran simply freezes its nuclear capabilities while we reduce the sanctions,” Schumer said. “The disproportionality of this agreement makes it more likely that Democrats and Republicans will join together and pass additional sanctions when we return in December.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (L) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrive in Geneva to close the deal on Iran’s nuclear program. (AP Photo/Denis Balibouse)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (L) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrive in Geneva to close the deal on Iran’s nuclear program. (AP Photo/Denis Balibouse)

The deal commits Iran to curbing its nuclear activities for six months in exchange for limited, gradual sanctions relief, including access to $4.2 billion from oil sales. The six-month period will give diplomats time to negotiate a more sweeping agreement.

President Barack Obama hailed the pact’s provisions, which include curbs on Iranian projects to make nuclear arms, as key to preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear threat. “They cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb,” he told reporters in Washington.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who led his country’s delegation, called on both sides to see the agreement as an “opportunity to end an unnecessary crisis and open new horizons.”

But initial reaction in Israel was strongly negative. Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is responsible for monitoring Iran’s nuclear program, said the deal was based on “Iranian deception and self-delusion.”

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has loudly criticized the agreement, saying the international community is giving up too much to Iran, which it believes will retain the ability to produce a nuclear weapon.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who joined the final negotiations along with the foreign ministers of Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, said the pact will make U.S. allies in the Middle East, including Israel, safer by reducing the threat of war.

The deal is a milestone for the two countries, which broke diplomatic ties 34 years ago when Iran’s Islamic revolution climaxed in the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Since then, relations between the two countries had been frigid to hostile.

Although the deal lowered tensions between the two countries, friction points remain — notably Iran’s support of the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad. The United States has also said Iran supports terrorism throughout the region and commits widespread human rights violations.

The deal limits Iran’s existing stockpiles of enriched uranium, which can be turned into the fissile core of nuclear arms. It curbs the number and capabilities of the centrifuges used to enrich and limits Iran’s ability to “produce weapons-grade plutonium”from a reactor in the advanced stages of construction.

Since it was revealed in 2003, Iran’s enrichment program has grown from a few dozen enriching centrifuges to more than 18,000 installed and more than 10,000 operating. Iran has also stockpiled almost 440 pounds of higher-enriched uranium in a form that can be converted more quickly to fissile warhead material than the low-enriched uranium. Its supply is nearly enough for one bomb.

In return for Iran’s nuclear curbs, the White House statement promised “limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible [sanctions] relief” to Iran, noting that “the key oil, banking, and financial sanctions architecture remains in place.” And it said any limited sanctions relief will be revoked and new penalties enacted if Iran fails to meet its commitments.

But one influential member of Congress was quick to criticize the deal.

Rep. Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed “serious concerns,” saying the United States was “relieving Iran of the sanctions pressure built up over years” while allowing Tehran to “keep the key elements of its nuclear weapons-making capacity.”