The United States, Iran and five other world powers on Thursday announced an understanding outlining limits on Iran’s nuclear program intended to ensure it cannot attain atomic weapons, directing negotiators toward achieving a comprehensive agreement within three months.
President Barack Obama hailed the deal as “historic” and said that, “if fully implemented” it would prevent Iran attaining the bomb, and would render the US, its allies and the world safer.
He acknowledged that he and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “don’t agree” on how best to thwart Iran’s nuclear program, and claimed Netanyahu didn’t want the US to move forward “to a peaceful resolution, but insisted this deal was “the most effective way” to ensure Iran not get the bomb.
The president later called Netanyahu and discussed the terms of the deal with him.
In Jerusalem, officials slammed the framework as “a capitulation to Iranian dictates.” The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, called it “a bad framework that will lead to a bad and dangerous agreement. If finalized, it would make the world “far more dangerous.”
The agreement constitutes “international legitimization of Iran’s nuclear program” whose “only purpose is to build nuclear weapons.”
Obama, whose remarks were broadcast live in Iranian state TV, vowed that “there will be no daylight, there is no daylight” between the US and Israel on security, and said the US would continue to stand with Israel in the face of Iran’s destabilizing policies and threats.
Today “we have achieved the framework” for a long-term deal, a framework “that would cut off every path” that Iran could take to the bomb, including the toughest inspections “ever negotiated,” he said.
He said the terms of the deal, first, closed off Iran’s plutonium route to the bomb. The core of the Arak reactor will be dismantled, he said.
Second, the uranium route would be closed, with two-thirds of Iran’s centrifuges no longer to be used, no enrichment at the Fordow facility, and no use of advanced centrifuges “for at least 10 years.” Most of Iran’s existing stocks of enriched uranium would be “neutralized.”
Third, as the best defense against a covert Iranian bid for the bomb, it would be subjected to unprecedented inspection. “If Iran cheats, the world will know it,” Obama said. “If we see something suspicious, we will inspect it.”
If it fully complies with the deal, Iran could “rejoin the family of nations,” the president said, stressing again that the deal had yet to be finalized.
Obama reiterated that, “Iran will never be permitted to develop a nuclear weapon.”
He said the deal provides for phased sanctions relief, but that if Iran violates the deal, “sanctions can be snapped back into place.”
“The issues at stake here are bigger than politics,” Obama said during remarks in the White House Rose Garden. “These are matters of war and peace, and they should be evaluated based on the facts.”
The president called the agreement “a good deal, a deal that meets our core objectives.”
One of Obama’s toughest challenges will be convincing lawmakers to hold off on legislation that would authorize new sanctions on Iran. He warned anew Thursday that approving new sanctions in the midst of the delicate diplomacy could scuttle the talks.
“It’s the United States that will be blamed for the failure of international diplomacy,” he said.
Obama said his administration would fully brief lawmakers on the agreement and he planned to speak to congressional leaders later in the day.
In Lausanne, speaking simultaneously, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the deal, contrary to reports, had “no sunset clause.” Some of its components would in force for 10 years, others for 15, and still others for indefinite periods. If implemented, Kerry added, Iran’s current two-month potential breakout time, he said, would be at least six times longer.
In an apparent dig at Netanyahu, Kerry added: “Simply demanding that Iran capitulate makes a nice soundbite, but it’s not a policy.”
Reading out a joint statement earlier, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said a “decisive step” had been taken after more than a decade of negotiations.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif followed with the same statement in Farsi. He called the deal a “win-win” agreement.
He later said the deal was designed to reassure “anybody who had concerns that our program is anything but] exclusively peaceful.
Still, he stressed, Iran would not be closing “any of our facilities” — something the “proud” Iranian people would not have accepted — would “continue enriching,” and would continue R&D.
Kerry and the top diplomats of Britain, France and Germany also briefly took the stage.
Two key allies in Europe, Britain and Germany, both praised the deal.
“We are closer than ever to an agreement that makes it impossible for Iran to possess nuclear weapons,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement. “That is a great credit to all negotiating partners.”
Britain’s foreign secretary, Philip Hammand, said the breakthrough was “a good basis for what I believe could be a very good deal.”
Also in Tehran earlier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani welcomed the deal, saying on his Twitter account that “solutions on key parameters” have been reached and that the final deal will be struck by the end of June.
In a tweet earlier, Kerry said there was an agreement “to resolve major issues on nuclear program. Back to work soon on a final deal.”
According to European officials quoted by the New York Times, under the terms of the deal “roughly 5,000 centrifuges will remain spinning enriched uranium at the main nuclear site at Natanz, about half the number currently running. The giant underground enrichment site at Fordo – which Israeli and some American officials fear is impervious to bombing – will be partly converted to advanced nuclear research and the production of medical isotopes… A major reactor at Arak, which officials feared could produce plutonium, would operate on a limited basis that would not provide enough fuel for a bomb.”
The thousands of Iranian centrifuges that are not to be used will be placed into IAEA-supervised storage, US officials said, to be available only as spare parts.
Mogherini said the seven nations would now start writing the text of a final accord. She cited several agreed-upon restrictions on Iran’s enrichment of material that can be used either for energy production or in nuclear warheads. She said Iran won’t produce weapons-grade plutonium.
Crucially for the Iranians, economic sanctions related to its nuclear programs are to be rolled back after the U.N. nuclear agency confirms compliance.
Israel’s Channel 2 news reported “dancing in the streets” of Iran at the news that the sanctions would ultimately be lifted.
People took to the streets of Tehran “dancing and passing out sweets,” the Telegraph reported. “In one video posted on Facebook, a group of women can be heard clapping and chanting ‘Thank you, Rouhani.'”
Obama has invested significant political capital in the nuclear negotiations. The talks have strained the U.S. relationship with Israel and deepened tensions with Congress.
Israeli leaders on Thursday voiced concerns about the announced deal, demanding that it “significantly” roll back the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program and vowing to fight the agreement before it is finalized in the coming months.
The talks resumed Thursday several hours after a flurry of marathon overnight sessions between Kerry and Zarif, as well as other meetings among the six powers.
Officials with the six world powers were trying to fashion more detailed documents on the steps they must take by June 30 to meet a host of goals.
As he headed to his own meeting earlier Thursday, Zarif said the talks had made “significant progress.” But he said drafts still had to be written. Reaching both agreement in Lausanne as well as a June final deal will be “a difficult job,” he said.
One problem, said Zarif, was differing voices among the other side at the table — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — making it difficult for them “to reach a coordination.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who left Lausanne Tuesday, said the two sides were close, the Interfax news agency reported. There are “only a few steps left to take or, in some cases, even-half steps, and some things have already been agreed upon,” he said.
But as the talks dragged on, one Western official said at one point early Thursday that they were “at a tough moment and the path forward is really unclear,” adding that the idea of breaking them off over Passover and Easter and resuming them next week had been informally raised.
The talks — the latest in more than a decade of diplomatic efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear prowess — hit the weeklong mark on Thursday.
As the sides bore down on efforts to get a deal, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier canceled a planned visit to Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was also back, less than a day after leaving the city.