Excitement, caution in the US on Iran deal | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 24.11.2013
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Excitement, caution in the US on Iran deal

The agreement reached in Geneva is dividing the US congress. While some delegates want even more severe sanctions, others are celebrating the deal as nothing less than "historic."

US television commentators assessed the statement as historic: "Today the United States - together with our close allies and partners - took an important first step toward a comprehensive solution that addresses our concerns with ... Iran's nuclear program," explained President Barack Obama in front of cameras just two hours after the breakthrough in Geneva.

Ever since the hostage drama in Tehran in November of 1979, there has essentially been diplomatic silence between the two countries. Obama noted that the negotiators pursued an intensive course: "Today that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure. A future in which we can verify that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon."

First step

The compromise reached in Geneva will mean the first freeze of Iran's nuclear program in almost a decade; in certain key areas, its capacity will even be reduced. In return, the economic sanctions that have crippled the Islamic Republic will be alleviated "moderately," said Obama.

Materials used in uranium enrichment Source: aeoi.org.ir

Tehran has agreed to keep enrichment levels frozen at five percent

They won't, however, disappear altogether: Obama stressed that the sanctions would be redoubled if Iran failed to meet its pledges.

Less euphoric were the initial reactions from Republican Senators, for instance Lindsey Graham, who tweeted, "Unless the agreement requires dismantling of the Iranian centrifuges, we really haven't gained anything."

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made it clear that the agreement recognized Iran's right to enrich Uranium. However, Tehran said it would freeze the level at five percent for the next six months. In addition, the New York Times reported that Iranian representatives had pledged to "dismantle links between networks of centrifuges."

Tehran is also willing to allow international inspectors to carry out daily checks, in a bid to silence critics who claim Iran is using its atomic program to develop nuclear weapons.

Protection from sabotage

The director of the National Iranian American Council, Trita Parsi, referred to Saturday's compromise as an important step. "For the first time in a long time, the two sides set aside pressure and escalation and actually went for a true compromise," said Parsi, who had followed the talks from his base in Washington.

Dr. Trita Parsi

Parsi called the Geneva agreement an important step for Iranians

The big victory for the West, he continued, was that Iran finally agreed to limit the scope of its centrifuge program: "This is not just a first step. It's a first step plus an agreement on what the end stage should be. And this is essential."

What's now important is "discipline, implementation, and protection," the latter of which is "essential to prevent the many saboteurs from blocking the deal," said Parsi, with regard, in particular, to Israel and Saudi Arabia. "Either the US manages to calm the critics down or the critics will sabotage this and the likely outcome will be a military confrontation down the road."

The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) had reported ahead of the talks that the Saudis would seek immediate nuclear support from Pakistan - if Iran in fact produced nuclear weapons.

'Sooner rather than later'

However, the Iran expert at Washington's Middle East Institute sees the situation with Saudi Arabia much more calmly. "Can Israel or Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates - can any of these neighbors of Iran act unilaterally and face Iran on their own? That would make them stronger and give better results than if they had been in the coalition that had been so far led by the US," said Alex Vatanka in an interview with DW, adding that the Geneva talks could only be seen as a success.

Insiders also agree that the West should move quickly to alleviate the economic sanctions against Iran. The Obama administration has increased the sanctions dramatically, including those against the petrochemical industry since 2011. It has also upped sanctions that were already in place against energy companies.

Iranians are being handed out food rations

The people of Iran have been hit hard by the economic sanctions

In February 2013, the US government placed sanctions on Iran's state broadcasters that - according to Washington - were censoring the opposition.

"I think what you are going to see in the beginning is a relief in sanctions in terms of petrochemicals, gold, some release of assets," said Trita Parsi. "The biggest threat is that the West is too slow in the implementation of lifting these sanctions."

If Western powers act too slowly, it would give Iranians the impression that "the West isn't willing to keep its promises," Parsi continued, saying that's something that could hinder any talks between the two sides. "Of course, Obama did say last week that he opposed further sanctions against Iran. But then again, there are parts of Congress that want even tougher sanctions."

With the Geneva compromise, there is now hope that the West and Iran can work together to help resolve the conflict in Syria. "If the nuclear issue is set aside, the many other differences that exist between the US and Iran can be addressed, potentially resolved - but at a minimum managed," said Parsi. "And that is going to include Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Persian Golf - but, most importantly, Israel and Syria."

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