On Tuesday the United States and six other world powers agreed to lift sanctions on Iran, imposed since 2006, after the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1696 in response to Tehran refusing to suspend its uranium enrichment program that some international governments feared was intended to develop the capability to produce nuclear weapons.
Tehran denies that its uranium enrichment program was intended for nuclear weapons and maintains that its sole purpose is for civilian purposes.
Under the weight of international sanctions, Iran’s economy has been crippled with over 100 billion in Iranian assets frozen.
Iran’s economy sunk even further after January 2012 when the EU agreed to freeze the assets of Iran’s central bank and enacted an oil embargo that greatly reduced an important source of revenue for Tehran.
While sanctioned, Iran had less money for its proxy military campaigns with Shiite militias in Iraq, Lebanon (Hezbollah), Yemen, and in Syria through their support of President Assad who has struggled to combat the rise of ISIS across Syria and Iraq.
Lifting international sanctions and forming a rapprochement with Shiite Iran marks a turning point for the United States with Middle East foreign policy and creates some new concerns for U.S. Sunni allies in the region and Israel.
On March 3rd Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech before U.S. Congress warning lawmakers to not forge any deal with Iran that removes sanctions.
Netanyahu voiced concerns about the rise of militant Islam in the Middle East and compared Iran to ISIS.
“Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam. One calls itself the Islamic Republic. The other calls itself the Islamic State” Netanyahu said.
“Both want to impose a militant Islamic empire first on the region and then on the entire world” Netanyahu added.
U.S. President Barack Obama explained yesterday that the new nuclear deal prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and meets the national security interests of the United States and its allies.
Obama told reporters that when this deal gets implemented, “we know that we will have dismantled the immediate concerns around Iran’s nuclear program”.
“We will have brought their stockpiles down to 98 percent. We will have significantly reduced the number of centrifuges that they operate. We will have installed an unprecedented inspections regime. And that will remain in place not just for 10 years, but for example on the stockpiles, will continue to 15 years” Obama continued.
After insisting that he’s not been offered a better alternative, Obama mentioned the strong world community support and cited the nuclear experts who were instrumental in advocating for the nuclear deal.
“If 99 percent of the world’s community and the majority of nuclear experts look at this thing and they say ‘this will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb,’ and you are arguing either that it does not or that even if it does, it’s temporary, or that because they’re going to get a windfall of their accounts being unfrozen that they’ll cause more problems, then you should have some alternative to present. And I haven’t heard that” Obama said.
The critiques of the nuclear deal involves the procedural timeline for the inspections and the possibility that Iran could try to exploit loopholes to their advantage.
The nuclear deal is already under attack from Republicans and Israel.
Congress will now have 60 days to debate and review the terms of the deal.
Republicans could attempt to block the deal but chances are slim that they could get enough votes unless they can convince a host of Democrats to reject the deal.