Iran reaches nuclear deal with world leaders — now what?

Posted at 7:33 AM, Nov 25, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-25 07:33:58-05

By Reza Sayah and Holly Yan

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) — Just one day after Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program in exchange for lighter economic sanctions, the difference in the moods on the streets of Tehran and Jerusalem couldn’t be starker.

“I’m very happy about this agreement,” one man told CNN in Tehran. “We hope all the world knows we use this nuclear (power) just for peace, not for war.”

With the exception of extreme hard-liners, most Iranians are extremely happy with the deal, especially after many rounds of negotiations that yielded no results.

But just across the region in Jerusalem, many residents echoed the sentiments of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who slammed the deal as “a historic mistake.”

A political cartoon in one local newspaper depicts Israel’s foreign minister as saying, “I’ll find us new friends” — an apparent jab at the United States and other allies who supported the deal.

What the deal means

Iranian officials and the P5+1 countries — the United States, Britain, China, Russia, France and Germany — hashed out the deal in Geneva early Sunday morning.

Even though it’s only a six-month plan, world leaders hope it’ll pave the way to a long-term guarantee that Iran won’t produce nuclear weapons. And Iran hopes to recoup some of the billions of dollars it’s lost as a result of international sanctions.

The world powers will suspend sanctions on various items, including gold and petrochemical exports. That suspension will provide Iran with about $1.5 billion in revenue, according to the White House.

Iran has stumbled from one economic crisis to the next under the sanctions, and unemployment currently runs over 24%.

The breathing room is intended to buy Iran and the negotiating powers time to arrive at a more comprehensive agreement. But it represents an opportunity, not a guarantee.

“It’s a little too early to break open champagne bottles and put on the party hats on this one,” said Middle East diplomatic expert Aaron David Miller. “Its success hinges on whether or not it leads to a bigger agreement to “put Iran’s nuclear weapons program to rest.”

That the diplomats came to any accord at all represents a momentous budge in a nearly 35-year deadlock marked by distrust, suspicion and open animosity between the United States and Iran, which broke off diplomatic relations after Iran’s revolution in 1979.

It was the first such agreement in 10 years of attempts to negotiate over Iran’s nuclear program.

Success or setback?

In a televised speech, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sold it as a win for his negotiators.

“We are pleased after 10 years that an agreement on this level has been reached,” he said.

He played up the fact that the deal allows Iran to enrich uranium to a level making it usable as nuclear fuel. During the six months of the agreement, major facilities in Iran will continue doing so, he said. That level, 5% enrichment, is well below the estimated 20% level needed to make weapons.

U.S. President Barack Obama said the deal was a success that includes “substantial limitations that will help prevent Iran from creating a nuclear weapon.”

The two countries are committed to the same goal — making sure Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon — the spokesman said.

Obama’s Republican opponents in Washington scorned the deal, and key ally Israel frowned upon it.

Both say it will have the opposite effect, advancing Iran’s alleged quest for a bomb.

“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,” said freshman Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

Netanyahu: obligation to defend

Netanyahu adamantly distrusts Iran and decried the agreement as a “historic mistake” on Sunday.

For decades, he has listened to Iranian leaders threaten the Jewish state, one even saying Israel should be wiped off the map.

During the negotiations in Geneva, Khamenei responded to passionate Israeli skepticism by saying Israeli officials “cannot be even called humans” and referred to Netanyahu as “the rabid dog of the region.”

Now that sanctions are working, Netanyahu wants to see the thumbscrews tightened, not loosened, until Iran shuts down much of its nuclear capability, which Tehran claims it will use only for peaceful purposes.

The agreement does not apply to Israel, he said Sunday. If need be, Israel will take matters into its own hands, he said.

“The regime in Iran is dedicated to destroying Israel, and Israel has the right and obligation to defend itself with its own forces against every threat. I want to make clear as the prime minister of Israel, Israel will not let Iran develop a nuclear military capability.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres backed up Netanyahu’s show of strength but also extended an olive branch.

“I would like to say to the Iranian people: You are not our enemies and we are not yours. There is a possibility to solve this issue diplomatically,” Peres said.

He called on Iran to drop ambitions of acquiring a nuclear weapon and end support to terrorists threatening Israel.

CNN’s Reza Sayah reported from Tehran; Holly Yan reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Ian Lee, Jim Sciutto and Ben Brumfield also contributed to this report.

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