Saturday, July 18, 2015

Iranian Nuclear Deal: 'Iran have been given a licence to kill'

Major powers agree historic accord after a decade of on-off negotiations
Lead negotiator John Kerry says U.S. got 'the good deal that we sought'
United States, European Union and the UN agree to lift sanctions on Iran
Tehran accepts long-term curbs on its nuclear programme that the West has suspected was aimed at creating an atomic bomb
Israel reacts angrily to deal and vows to stop the agreement being ratified
Global oil prices plunge over possibility Iranian supply will return to market

Israel today launched a blistering attack on Western powers for agreeing a controversial atomic deal with Iran, warning that it gave Tehran 'a sure path to nuclear weapons'.

Under the accord, sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union and United Nations will be lifted in return for Iran agreeing long-term curbs on a nuclear programme that the West has suspected was aimed at creating an atomic bomb.

The European Union called it a 'sign of hope for the entire world', while President Barack Obama insisted the deal meant 'every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off'.

His views were echoed by David Cameron who said it was a deal 'that will help to make our world a safer place'.

But this was angrily rejected by Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu branding the deal 'a bad mistake of historic proportions'.

‘One cannot prevent an agreement when the negotiators are willing to make more and more concessions to those who, even during the talks, keep chanting: “Death to America”,’ he said.

‘Our concern is that the militant Islamic state of Iran is going to receive a sure path to nuclear weapons.’ He added that Iran would receive a ‘cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars’.

Miri Regev, a former military spokeswoman who serves as Israel's culture and sports minister, said it gave Iran a 'licence to kill', adding that it was 'bad for the free world (and) bad for humanity.'

Naftali Bennett, a member of Israel's Inner Security Cabinet, said the nuclear deal with Iran marked 'a new dark and sinister era for the world.'

Speaking to CNN's Chris Cuomo, Bennett said that '20 years down, if a nuclear bomb explodes in London or New York, we'll know that we can trace it down to July 14, 2015.'

'We're preparing for everything we need to do to defend ourselves', Bennett added.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called the deal 'a historic surrender by the West to the axis of evil headed by Iran.'

She said that Israel would 'act with all means to try and stop the agreement being ratified', a clear threat to try to use its influence to block it in the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress.

After long, fractious negotiations, world powers and Iran struck the historic deal earlier today - an agreement aimed at averting the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran and another U.S. military intervention in the Middle East.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who spent the last 19 days leading the talks in Vienna, hailed the accord as 'the good deal that we sought'.

'We were determined to get this right and I believe our persistence paid off,' he told reporters, adding that the agreement marked a historic day.

Amid celebrations on streets of Iranian cities, Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani claimed the agreement hammered out in Vienna between his team of negotiators and foreign ministers of six world powers, opened a ‘new chapter in his country’s relations with the world’.

A highly selective breakdown of Iran’s gains and few of its concessions were highlighted on state-controlled TV.

Iran was also congratulated by Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad, who has been backed by Tehran throughout his country's four-year conflict.

He said the coming days will witness a 'strengthening of the constructive role played by Iran in supporting the rights of nations.'

Meanwhile, the prospect of a deal has already helped push down global oil prices because of the possibility that Iranian supply could return to the market.

The agreement is a major political victory for both Mr Obama and President Rouhani, a pragmatist elected two years ago on a vow to reduce the diplomatic isolation of a country of 77 million people.

But both leaders face scepticism from powerful hardliners at home after decades of enmity between nations that referred to each other as 'the Great Satan' and a member of the 'Axis of Evil'.

Rouhani was quick to present the deal as a step on the road towards a wider goal of international cooperation.

The deal 'shows constructive engagement works', he tweeted. 'With this unnecessary crisis resolved, new horizons emerge with a focus on shared challenges.'

For Obama, the diplomacy with Iran, begun in secret more than two years ago, ranks alongside his normalisation of ties with Cuba as landmarks in a legacy of reaching out to enemies that tormented his predecessors for decades.

While the main negotiations were between the United States and Iran, the four other U.N. Security Council permanent members, Britain, China, France and Russia, are also parties to the deal, as is Germany.

Prime Minister David Cameron the deal with Iran as 'historic', saying it will 'keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and help to make our world a safer place'.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond added: 'We hope, and expect, that this agreement will herald a step-change in Iran's relations with its neighbours and with the international community.'

Congress has 60 days for a review, though if it rejects the deal, Obama can use his veto.

It would require two-thirds of lawmakers to override such a veto, which means some of Obama's fellow Democrats would have to rebel against one of their president's signature achievements in order to kill the deal. 

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Lindsey Graham said the nuclear agreement is 'a possible death sentence for Israel' and will 'make everything worse.'

In an interview on MSNBC, the U.S. senator called the deal 'terrible.'

'This is most dangerous, irresponsible step I've ever seen in the history of watching the Mideast,' he said.

'Barack Obama and John Kerry have been dangerously naive about the Mideast in general.

'They've taken it to a new level and any senator who votes for this is voting for a nuclear arms race in the Mideast, voting to give the largest state sponsor of terrorism $18billion.'

Speaker John Boehner said Obama had abandoned his own goals and the deal would likely fuel a nuclear arms race around the world.

Kerry said he does not expect it to be definitively rejected, telling reporters: 'I really don't believe that people will turn their backs on an agreement which has such extraordinary steps in it with respect to Iran's program as well as access and verification.'

Iran is not likely to receive many of the benefits from the lifting of sanctions until next year because of the need to ratify the deal and verify its implementation.

'Celebrating too early can send a bad signal to the enemy,' Iranian conservative lawmaker Alireza Zakani was quoted as saying in parliament by Fars News agency.

He noted that Iran's National Security Council would also review the deal 'and if they think it is against our national interests, we will not have a deal', he said.

'The Islamic Republic will not sign a bad deal.'

The final round of talks in Vienna involved nearly three weeks of intense negotiation between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

It was something that would until recently have been unthinkable for two countries that have been bitter enemies since 1979, when Iranian revolutionaries stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

'I believe this is an historic moment,' Zarif, who was educated in the United States and developed a warm rapport with Kerry, told a news conference.

'Today could have been the end of hope on this issue, but now we are starting a new chapter of hope. Let's build on that.'

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who acted as coordinator for the powers, said: 'It is a decision that can open the way to a new chapter in international relations and show that diplomacy, co-ordination, cooperation can overcome decades of tensions and confrontations.

'I think this is a sign of hope for the entire world.'

Hatred of the United States has been a defining trait of Iran's ruling system, on display last week when it marked the last Friday of the Ramadan fasting month with an annual day of protests, crowds chanting 'Death to Israel!' and 'Death to America!'.

Obama first reached out to Iranians with an address in 2008, only weeks into his presidency, offering a 'new beginning'.

Iran has long denied it is seeking a nuclear weapon and has insisted on the right to nuclear technology for peaceful means, although Western powers feared the enriched uranium that it was stockpiling could be used to make a bomb.

Obama never ruled out using military force if negotiations failed.

Iran's IRNA news agency said billions of dollars in frozen funds would be released under the deal, and sanctions on its central bank, national oil company, shipping and airlines would now be lifted.

Western diplomats said Iran had accepted a 'snapback' mechanism, under which some sanctions could be reinstated in 65 days if it violated the deal.

The breakthrough came after several key compromises.

Iran retains right to conduct research into enriching uranium for 10 years, without stockpiling it

Iran agreed to the continuation of a UN 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, according to diplomats.

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 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, which runs almost 100 pages, Tehran would have the right to challenge the UN 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, hopefully by mid-December.

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.

The 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 disputes are likely to continue, however.

In a foreshadowing of the public relations battle ahead, Iranian state TV released a fact sheet of elements it claimed were in the final agreement - a highly selective list that highlighted Iranian gains and minimised its concessions.

Among them was an assertion that all sanctions-related U.N. resolutions will be lifted at once.

While a new UN resolution will revoke previous sanctions, it will also re-impose restrictions in a number of categories.

Beyond the parties to the pact, 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.

Sunni Arab rivals of Shi'ite Iran are none too happy, either, with Saudi Arabia in particularly issuing veiled threats to develop its own nuclear program.


August 2002 - Western intelligence services and an Iranian opposition group reveal a covert nuclear site at the eastern city of Natanz.

An inspection by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency reveals it was used to enrich uranium, a process for producing fuel or nuclear warheads.

June 2003 - Britain, France and Germany engage Iran in nuclear negotiations. Washington refuses to join.

October 2003 - Iran suspends uranium enrichment.

February 2006 - Iran announces it will restart uranium enrichment following the election of hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a critical Iran report by the IAEA to the UN Security Council, and after Britain, France and Germany walk out of stalled negotiations.

June 2006 - The United States, Russia and China join Britain, France and Germany to form the P5+1 group of nations trying to persuade Iran to curb its nuclear program. Washington initially stays away from the negotiating table.

December 2006 - The U.N. Security Council imposes the first set of sanctions on Iran, banning the sale of sensitive nuclear technology. Five more Security Council resolutions are passed by 2010, tightening the sanctions vise on the Islamic Republic.

November 2007 - The number of uranium-enriching centrifuges assembled by Iran reaches about 3,000 from just a few hundred in 2002. Its stockpile of low-enriched uranium also grows, giving Tehran a theoretical ability to make enough-weapons grade uranium for a bomb within a year.

July 2008 - Under President George W. Bush, the United States joins the nuclear talks for the first time.

September 2009 - Western leaders announce that Iran has dug a covert enrichment site into a mountain, escalating concerns because the facility may be impervious to air attack.

October 2009 - Under President Barack Obama, a senior U.S. diplomat meets one-on-one with Iran's top nuclear negotiator. The talks are some of the most extensive between Washington and Tehran in three decades.

February 2010 - Iran announces it has started to enrich uranium to near 20 percent, a technical step away from weapons-grade material.

May 2010 - Brazil and Turkey announce their own nuclear deal with Iran, to America's great dismay. The arrangement quickly falls apart.

January 2011 - Negotiations between Iran and the six world powers break off for what proves a 15-month hiatus. Iran refuses to make deep cuts in its nuclear program.

November 2011 - The IAEA outlines the possible military dimension to Iran's nuclear activities. Iran denies the allegations, saying they're based on falsified Israeli and U.S. evidence.

January 2012 - The IAEA says Iran is enriching to 20 per cent at its mountain facility near Fordo. The European Union freezes the assets of Iran's central bank and halts Iranian oil imports.

April 2012 - Negotiations restart between Iran and the six world powers but go nowhere.

July 2012 - U.S. and Iranian officials meet secretly in Oman to see if diplomatic progress is possible. Talks gain speed the following year, particularly when Ahmadinejad's presidency ends.

August 2013 - Hassan Rouhani defeats several hardline candidates to become Iran's president, declaring his country ready for serious nuclear talks.

By now, Iran has about 20,000 centrifuges and the U.S. estimates the country is only a few months away from nuclear weapons capability.

September 2013 - Rouhani and Obama speak by telephone, the highest-level exchange between the two countries since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif begin their diplomatic exchanges.

November 2013 - Iran and the six powers announce an interim agreement that temporarily curbs Tehran's nuclear program and unfreezes some Iranian assets. The deal sets the stage for extended negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear accord.

July 2014 - Talks miss the deadline for a final pact. A four-month extension is agreed.

November 2014 - The final pact remains elusive. Talks are extended a further seven months.

April 2015 - A framework deal is announced, outlining long-term restrictions on Iran's nuclear program and the removal of many international sanctions. Much remains unresolved, however.

July 14, 2015 - World powers and Iran announce long-term, comprehensive nuclear agreement.[source]

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