WASHINGTON, D.C.: Western leaders hailed their hard-won nuclear agreement with Iran on Sunday (Monday in Manila), but were quickly confronted by the scale of the six-month struggle ahead to reach a final settlement.
The accord the United States (US) and its allies welcomed will put Iran’s nuclear enrichment program on hold as talks continue, but it marks only the first stage in fraught negotiations.
Even as US President Barack Obama hailed a breakthrough in ties with a traditional foe, he had to move quickly to placate skeptical US friends: Israel and the Gulf monarchies.
Iran’s new leader President Hassan Rouhani seized upon the supposedly tough deal to do a victory lap of his own, declaring—despite Western denials—that Tehran had won a “right” to future enrichment.
The White House insisted it had only given ground on a fraction of the economic sanctions imposed on Iran to halt what the West sees as its bid to build a nuclear bomb.
Officials stressed that such relief would only last while Iran keeps its side of the bargain, insisting that the world powers seek a “lasting, peaceful and comprehensive solution.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose own country is widely assumed to have an undeclared nuclear arsenal, branded the Geneva agreement a “historic mistake” that would convince Tehran it has a free hand to achieve breakout nuclear capability and tip the balance of power in the Middle East.
Obama, who also faces skepticism from many lawmakers in Washington, called Netanyahu in a bid to reassure him that the accord was temporary and the sanctions relief limited.
“The two leaders reaffirmed their shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” deputy White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
The deal was reached in marathon talks in Geneva that ended before dawn after long tractions between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany.
The six powers hailed it as a key first step that wards off the threat of military escalation—a geopolitical breakthrough that would have been unthinkable only months ago.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the deal “could turn out to be the beginnings of a historic agreement” for the Middle East.