World powers and Iran nuclear agreement reached

July 14, 2015 12:03 pm

 Iranian
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif waves to journalist from a
balcony of the Palais Coburg where closed-door nuclear talks took place.
Photo / AP

After 18 days of intense and often fractious negotiation, world
powers and struck a landmark deal Tuesday to curb ’s nuclear
program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from international
sanctions – an agreement designed to avert the threat of a
nuclear-armed Iran and another U.S. military intervention in the Muslim
world.
The accord will keep Iran from producing enough material
for a nuclear weapon for at least 10 years and impose new provisions for
inspections of Iranian facilities, including military sites.
And
it marks a dramatic break from decades of animosity between the United
States and Iran, countries that alternatively call each other the
“leading state sponsor of terrorism” and the “the Great Satan.”
“This
is a historic moment,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
said as he attended a final session alongside his counterparts from the
United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia in Vienna on
Tuesday morning.

“We are reaching an agreement that is not perfect for anybody,
but it is what we could accomplish, and it is an important achievement
for all of us. Today could have been the end of hope on this issue. But
now we are starting a new chapter of hope.”
The formal announcement of the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was to be made after the meeting.
Its
completion comes after more than two weeks of furious diplomacy, during
which negotiators blew through three self-imposed deadlines.
Zarif
and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who conducted most of the
negotiations, both threatened to walk away while trading accusations of
intransigence.
The breakthrough came after several key compromises.
Diplomats
said Iran agreed to the continuation of a U.N. arms embargo on the
country for up to five more years, though it could end earlier if the
International Atomic Energy Agency definitively clears Iran of any
current work on nuclear weapons.
A similar condition was put on
U.N. restrictions on the transfer of ballistic missile technology to
Tehran, which could last for up to eight more years.
Washington
had sought to maintain the ban on Iran importing and exporting weapons,
concerned that an Islamic Republic flush with cash from the nuclear deal
would expand its military assistance for Syrian President Bashar
Assad’s government, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, the Lebanese militant group
Hezbollah and other forces opposing America’s Mideast allies such as
Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Iranian leaders insisted the embargo had to end as their forces combat regional scourges such as the Islamic State.
And
they got some support from China and particularly Russia, which wants
to expand military cooperation and arms sales to Tehran, including the
long-delayed transfer of S-300 advanced air defense systems – a move
long opposed by the United States.
Another significant agreement
will allow U.N. inspectors to press for visits to Iranian military sites
as part of their monitoring duties, something the country’s supreme
leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had long vowed to oppose.
However,
access isn’t guaranteed and could be delayed, a condition that critics
of the deal are sure to seize on as possibly giving Tehran time to cover
up any illicit activity.
Under the accord, Tehran would have the
right to challenge the U.N request and an arbitration board composed of
Iran and the six world powers would then decide on the issue.
The
IAEA also wants the access to complete its long-stymied investigation
of past weapons work by Iran, and the U.S. says Iranian cooperation is
needed for all economic sanctions to be lifted.
IAEA chief Yukiya
Amano said Tuesday his agency and Iran had signed a “roadmap” to
resolve outstanding concerns.The economic benefits for Iran are
potentially massive.
It stands to receive more than $100 billion
in assets frozen overseas, and an end to a European oil embargo and
various financial restrictions on Iranian banks.
Zarif said the agreement was a “win-win solution”.
Federica Mogherini, the European Union foreign policy chief, called it “a sign of hope for the entire world”
The
nuclear deal comes after nearly a decade of international,
intercontinental diplomacy that until recently was defined by failure.
Breaks
in the talks sometimes lasted for months, and Iran’s nascent nuclear
program expanded into one that Western intelligence agencies saw as only
a couple of months away from weapons capacity.
The U.S. and Israel both threatened possible military responses.
The
United States joined the negotiations in 2008, and U.S. and Iranian
officials met together secretly four years later in Oman to see if
diplomatic progress was possible.
But the process remained
essentially stalemated until summer 2013, when Hassan Rouhani was
elected president and declared his country ready for serious compromise.
More
secret U.S.-Iranian discussions followed, culminating in a face-to-face
meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign
Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the United Nations in September 2013
and a telephone conversation between Rouhani and President Barack Obama.
That
conversation marked the two countries’ highest diplomatic exchange
since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and the ensuing hostage crisis at
the American embassy in Tehran.
Kerry and Zarif took the lead in the negotiations.
Two
months later, in Geneva, Iran and the six powers announced an interim
agreement that temporarily curbed Tehran’s nuclear program and unfroze
some Iranian assets while setting the stage for Tuesday’s comprehensive
accord.It took time to get the final deal, however.
The talks missed deadlines for the pact in July 2014 and November 2014, leading to long extensions.
Finally,
in early April, negotiators reached framework deal in Lausanne,
Switzerland, setting up the last push for the historic agreement.
Protracted
negotiations still lie ahead to put the agreement into practice and
deep suspicion reigns on all sides about violations that could unravel
the accord. And spoilers abound.
In the United States, Congress
has a 60-day review period during which Obama cannot make good on any
concessions to the Iranians. U.S. lawmakers could hold a vote of
disapproval and take further action.
Iranian hardliners oppose
dismantling a nuclear program the country has spent hundreds of billions
of dollars developing. Khamenei, while supportive of his negotiators
thus far, has issued a series of defiant red lines that may be
impossible to reconcile in a deal with the West.
And further afield, Israel will strongly oppose the outcome.
It
sees the acceptance of extensive Iranian nuclear infrastructure and
continued nuclear activity as a mortal threat, and has warned that it
could take military action on its own, if necessary.
The deal is a
“bad mistake of historic proportions,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu said Tuesday, adding that it would enable Iran to “continue to
pursue its aggression and terror in the region”.
Sunni Arab
rivals of Shiite Iran are none too happy, either, with Saudi Arabia in
particularly issuing veiled threats to develop its own nuclear program.
New Zealand’s foreign minister has welcomed the Iran nuclear deal. Murray McCully said today the nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers was an “important” breakthrough.
“Over
the last eighteen months negotiators have been working to secure an
agreement that will increase international confidence in the nature of
Iran’s nuclear programme,” Mr McCully said.
“This agreement is a
positive development for regional stability in the and will
allow for further progress to be made in the relationship between New
Zealand and Iran.
“As the current president of the United Nations
Security Council, New Zealand will do what it can to expedite any
necessary Security Council action, and we call for the agreement to be
implemented as soon as possible,” he added.
The nearly 100-page
accord, announced today, aimed to keep Iran from producing enough
material for an atomic weapon for at least 10 years and imposed new
provisions for inspections of Iranian facilities, including military
sites.
The agreement was expected to lift sanctions in exchange for limits on Iran’s nuclear production capability and fuel stockpile.

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