NEW: Key Democrat says he will bring up additional sanctions when Congress reconvenes
Obama: The limitations will cut off Iran's most likely paths to a nuclear bomb
Israeli PM: The deal "is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake"
Iran reiterates its claim that it does not want nuclear weapons
To say reactions to the Iranian nuclear deal have been all over the place would be an understatement.
In one corner, ardent supporters, like the White House, touted it as a resolution in which they didn’t waver from their core beliefs. Iranian officials boasted the same.
The United Nations and the European Union threw in their weight, saying the compromise is a huge step with tremendous potential.
Then you have Israel, which says the deal is based on global “self-delusion” and could help Iran get closer to having a nuclear bomb. Meanwhile, some U.S. Republicans are skeptical about the Obama administration’s true intentions in helping strike the deal.
The six-month agreement slows Iran’s nuclear development program in exchange for lifting some sanctions. The agreement came after months of buildup and four days of negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland, between Iranian officials and the P5+1 countries – the United States, Britain, China, Russia, France and Germany. As predicted, each side claimed victory with the outcome.
Here’s where each of the players stands:
The United States
President Barack Obama said the deal is a significant step forward.
“For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back,” Obama said late Saturday night.
“Iran has committed to halting certain levels of enrichment and neutralizing part of its stockpiles. … And new inspections will provide extensive access to Iran’s nuclear facilities and allow the international community to verify whether Iran is keeping its commitments.”
He said those limitations are among several that will cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a nuclear bomb.
“The United States and our friends and allies have agreed to provide Iran with modest relief while continuing to apply our toughest sanctions,” Obama said. “We will refrain from imposing new sanctions, and we will allow the Iranian government access to a portion of the revenue they have been denied through sanctions.”
President Vladimir Putin said the deal was balanced and will be a positive factor in Middle East relations. He said Russia had “proposed earlier principles of gradualism and reciprocity.”
But while the deal is a win-win agreement and a breakthrough, it is just a first step, he said in a written statement translated by CNN.
“We, together with our partners, are ready to continue a patient search for a mutually acceptable, wider integrated solution providing the inalienable right of Iran to develop a peaceful nuclear program under (International Atomic Energy Agency) control and security of all countries in the Middle East, including Israel,” he said.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also lauded the deal struck between the P5+1 countries and Iran. But that’s pretty much where the similarities stop.
Contrary to what Obama said, Rouhani said “all sanctions will be lifted” as part of the deal.
That’s not the only difference in wording. Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the written deal does not say that Iran can enrich uranium.
Rouhani, however, said the outcome means world powers have “recognized Iran’s nuclear rights,” including the right to enrich uranium.
“This right has been explicitly stipulated by this agreement, stressing that Iran will go on with enrichment,” he said. “Enrichment will proceed similar to in the past.”
According to the White House, Iran has agreed to stop enriching uranium above 5% purity. That’s enough to produce electricity, but not enough to reach the level required to make a nuclear bomb.
On Sunday, Rouhani echoed a phrase often repeated in Tehran: “Iran has never sought to attain nuclear weapons.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency
“The IAEA welcomes the agreement reached in Geneva, which is another important step forward following the agreement reached between the Agency and Iran on 11 November in Tehran,” Yukiya Amano, director general of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, said in a statement. “With the agreement of the IAEA’s Board of Governors, the Agency will be ready to fulfil its role in verifying the implementation of nuclear related measures.”
Israel, a close U.S. ally, couldn’t disagree more with the United States’ stance on the pact.
“What was achieved last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday. “For the first time, the leading nations in the world agreed to the enrichment of uranium in Iran by ignoring the decisions of the (U.N.) Security Council that they themselves led.”
Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said the current deal “is more likely to bring Iran closer to having a bomb.
“Israel cannot participate in the international celebration, which is based on Iranian deception and the world self-delusion,” Steinitz said.
And Naftali Bennett, the Israeli minister of trade and industry, was even harsher.
“If in five years a nuclear suitcase explodes in New York or Madrid,” he said Sunday, “it will be because of the agreement that was signed this morning.”
Saudi Arabia also expressed anxiety over the new deal. It’s a majority Sunni country; Iran is majority Shiite. And like Israel, Saudi Arabia is troubled by Iran’s growing clout in the Middle East.
“We don’t know all the details yet, but the Saudi government has been very concerned about these negotiations with Iran and unhappy at the prospect of a deal with Iran,” a Saudi government official said. “There is a lot of worry right now about threats to the region.”
Another official, who asked to not be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said the government continues to examine the deal closely with concern.
“Many in Saudi Arabia worry that Iran is not being sincere, and the worry during the negotiations was that any deal reached would mean Iran would widen their influence in the region – in countries like Lebanon and Bahrain – and become a bigger threat.”
United Arab Emirates
The UAE Cabinet welcomed the preliminary agreement and expressed hope that it will “represent a step forward to a permanent agreement that would preserve the stability of the region and protect it from tension and the danger of nuclear proliferation,” state news agency WAM reported.
On state-run media, Syria welcomed the agreement. Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi called it “a victory for the logic of dialogue and political work over the logic of threats, ultimatums, challenges and wars.”
He accused Saudi Arabia and Israel of preferring “force, threat and interference over the logic of dialogue.”
the report by the Syrian Arab News Agency said a “source at the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry” called the deal “historic” and said it maintains the interests of Iranians, while recognizing their right to use nuclear power.
Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy welcomed news of the agreement.
Through a statement released by his spokesman, Fahmy said he thinks the deal takes into account “the security concerns of all nations in the region.”
He added that his country has proposed the removal of all nuclear weapons from the Middle East, but it must be done “far removed from double standards and exceptions.”
Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Xinhua news agency that both sides exhibited flexibility and commitment through what had been difficult talks at times. He said the next phase of talks should take place as soon as possible so momentum will not be lost.
He also called the deal an initial step.
“The execution of this agreement is only the start of solving Iran’s nuclear issues. In the future, there will be new issues and challenges,” he said. “China will insist upon a political channel and continue to work with all sides toward the final resolution of Iran’s nuclear issues.”
Some U.S. Republicans suggested that the deal was orchestrated by the White House to divert attention from the ongoing debacle over HealthCare.gov, the Obamacare exchange site whose disastrous rollout has tanked the president’s approval ratings.
“Amazing what WH (the White House) will do to distract attention from O-care (Obamacare),” tweeted Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
Other critics, like Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, said the arrangement could be detrimental.
“This agreement shows other rogue states that wish to go nuclear that you can obfuscate, cheat, and lie for a decade, and eventually the United States will tire and drop key demands,” Rubio said. “Iran will likely use this agreement – and any that follows that does not require any real concessions – to obtain a nuclear weapons capability.”
Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, pointed to Iran’s role in terrorist activities in recent years, saying Tehran hasn’t signaled that it has abandoned those practices.
“We may have just encouraged more violence in the future than we have stopped. That’s why I hope we reconsider where we’re at,” he added.
It wasn’t just Republicans who were disappointed. Sen. Charles Schumer, an influential Democrat on sanctions votes, said Congress will discuss what to do next month.
“As for additional sanctions, this disproportionality of this agreement makes it more likely that Democrats and Republicans will join together and pass additional sanctions when we return in December. I intend to discuss that possibility with my colleagues.”
The European Union facilitated the talks in Geneva. After days of intense negotiations, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued a joint statement saying the deal was an important step to “a final, comprehensive solution.”
“The adoption of the joint plan of action was possible thanks to a sense of mutual respect and a determination to find a way forward which is beneficial for all of us,” they said. “We look forward to swift implementation, which we will jointly monitor, in close coordination with the IAEA.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also expressed hope that the deal will ease global concerns about Iran’s nuclear future, his office said.
“The Secretary-General calls on all members of the international community to support this process which, if allowed to succeed, is likely to be to the long-term benefit of all parties.”
“This is a major step forward. I hope it’ll be sealed with a final agreement soon. I congratulate all parties for their constructive engagement,” said President Abdullah Gul.
CNN’s Mohammed Jamjoom, Reza Sayah, Michael Schwartz and Conor Finnegan contributed to this report.