With three Americans long held in Iran flying to Europe Sunday, President Barack Obama urged young Iranians to “pursue a new path” with the West as he imposed modest new sanctions on the country for banned missile tests.
The images of long-delayed freedom and Washington’s double-edged message underscored the uncertainties about the long-term implications of a dizzying 48 hours of diplomacy between Washington and Tehran that yielded a mutual prisoner release. It had hints of a budding era of détente. But there were clearly forces in both capitals arguing against any form of cooperation.
Three Americans – a Washington Post reporter, a former Marine and a pastor – are at a U.S. air base in Germany undergoing medical examinations, almost home after languishing in Iran’s worst prisons
By the end of the weekend, the three Americans – a Washington Post reporter, a former Marine and a pastor – were at a U.S. air base in Germany undergoing medical examinations, almost home after languishing in Iran’s worst prisons. The Iranians, for their part, were trying to adjust to a new world in which they were free to sell their oil around the world, but at prices far lower than they anticipated, and to reconnect with a global financial system that had been closed off to them while they were expanding their nuclear infrastructure.
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$100 billion Money in newly unfrozen funds Iran gets as part of lifted sanctions
And it was unclear how they would spend upward of $100 billion in newly unfrozen funds – on long-delayed social welfare projects, or on paying for the proxy wars that have expanded Iranian influence.
Obama also announced the resolution of another argument between Tehran and Washington that dates to the Iranian revolution, this one over $400 million in payments for military equipment that the United States sold to the shah of Iran and never delivered when he was overthrown. The Iranians got their money back, with $1.3 billion in interest that had accumulated over 37 years.
But perhaps the most notable part of Obama’s statement Sunday was its absence of triumphalism and its warning that problems with Iran over ideology, Syria and regional ambitions were not over.
This is a good day. We have a rare chance to pursue a new path, a different, better future that delivers progress for both our peoples and the wider world. That’s the opportunity before the Iranian people. We need to take advantage of that.
“This is a good day,” Obama said. “We have a rare chance to pursue a new path, a different, better future that delivers progress for both our peoples and the wider world. That’s the opportunity before the Iranian people. We need to take advantage of that.”
It mirrored the words of Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, who, at a news conference in Tehran, wondered aloud whether the United States would take advantage of the opening. He did not mention the prisoner release or the dismantling of a nuclear infrastructure that Iran had spent billions of dollars building up.
“This success is the result of resistance, integrity, unity and linkage between different branches and pillars of the system,” he said. “Everybody is happy except the Zionists, the warmongers who are fueling sectarian war among Islamic nations, and the hard-liners in the U.S. Congress.”
This success is the result of resistance, integrity, unity and linkage between different branches and pillars of the system. Everybody is happy except the Zionists, the warmongers who are fueling sectarian war among Islamic nations, and the hard-liners in the U.S. Congress.
Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president
With critics of Rouhani saying that the latest sanctions reveal Washington’s true stripes, and elections looming in Iran, Rouhani has to make the case that his outreach to the United States brought tangible economic benefits. With Republican presidential candidates denouncing the prisoner release, Obama has to make the case that his decision to negotiate created a channel of communication that is in America’s interest. On Sunday, he took a swipe at his critics, recalling Iran’s seizure of Navy boats and sailors last week.
“When our sailors in the Persian Gulf accidentally strayed into Iranian waters,” he said, “that could have sparked a major international incident. Some folks here in Washington rushed to declare that it was the start of another hostage crisis.” Instead, he said, a few phone calls were made and the United States “secured the release of our sailors in less than 24 hours.”
The imposition of new sanctions against Iranian companies and individuals are for two missile tests, one in October and another in November, that had violated United Nations resolutions
Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, who orchestrated the events over the weekend, decided several weeks ago to delay the imposition of sanctions against Iranian companies and individuals for two missile tests, one in October and another in November, that had violated United Nations resolutions.
Obama had vowed to continue to apply non-nuclear sanctions, even after last summer’s nuclear agreement had been signed. But State Department officials worried that the prisoner release would be imperiled if the sanctions were announced before the swap was arranged. “We didn’t know how big the risk was,” said one senior official. “But it wasn’t trivial.”
While the appearance of the back-to-back sanctions announcements – lifting nuclear sanctions and adding missile sanctions – might seem to suggest that Washington was merely re-categorizing old penalties, they are actually not comparable.
$30 million Revenue per day Iran could make with the lifting of nuclear sanctions allowing it to re-enter the world’s oil markets
The lifting of nuclear sanctions Saturday allowed Iran to re-enter the world’s oil markets; according to some estimates, by the end of the year its exports may increase by a million barrels a day, yielding about $30 million a day in revenue at current prices. Its ships will be able to enter and leave foreign ports, and its citizens will have access to global financial markets.
The new sanctions are aimed mostly at individuals and some small companies accused of shipping crucial technologies to Iran, including carbon fiber and missile parts that can survive re-entry forces. Because the sanctions are focused on those individuals and firms, most Iranians will never feel them, and the amounts are comparatively tiny.
The release of three of the freed Americans – Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati and Saeed Abedini – came after a tense day in which the Swiss aircraft sent for them sat on the tarmac in Tehran.
The release of three of the freed Americans – Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati and Saeed Abedini – came after a tense day in which the Swiss aircraft sent for them sat on the tarmac in Tehran. The main issue was the U.S. insistence that Rezaian’s wife, Yageneh Salehi, and his mother be able to fly out with him. They were eventually allowed on the plane.
Rezaian, The Post’s Tehran correspondent, was arrested in July 2014 on vague charges that included spying. The Post and news media advocates around the world defended his innocence and protested increasingly loudly about his case.
“I am incredibly relieved that Jason is on his way home,” Rezaian’s brother, Ali Rezaian, said in a statement. He said he had received a call from Obama expressing concern for his brother’s well-being.
The fourth American freed in the exchange, Nosratollah Khosravi – whose incarceration had not been reported until the prisoner deal was announced Saturday – was not on the plane, U.S. officials said. He chose to stay in Tehran, saying that he had an apartment there.
The family of Hekmati, 32, a former Marine incarcerated in Iran longer than any of the others, issued a statement expressing relief that he was out of Iran. “It is hard to put into words what our family feels right now,” the statement said. “Today is an incredible day for all of us.”
Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of Abedini, a 35-year-old pastor from Boise, Idaho, said she had been up all night awaiting the State Department’s phone call. “They have finally left Iranian soil!” she said in a text message.
In a memo Sunday to the Washington Post staff, Martin Baron, executive editor, and Douglas Jehl, foreign editor, reported that they had had a brief conversation with Rezaian, who was catching up on the news reports about his release on his mother’s iPad. “Asked how he was doing,” the memo said, he responded, “I’m a hell of a lot better than I was 48 hours ago.”
Netanyahu asserts Israel will be Iran’s watchdog
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday that Israel would ensure that Iran never obtains nuclear weapons, while also taking credit for keeping Iran from already having them.
Netanyahu has been an open and vocal opponent of the deal with Iran. Speaking at the start of the regular weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said: “Israel’s policy has been and will remain exactly what it has been: not to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.”
He also said that the recent accord would strengthen and embolden Iran’s leaders, since the lifting of most sanctions would free up money for Tehran to arm and support the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad, Shia militias and Israel’s enemies in the region, including Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
“What is clear is that Iran will now have more resources to dedicate to their terrorism and aggression in the region and in the world, and Israel is prepared to deal with any threat,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu believes, as he said in a statement issued late Saturday, when it became clear that the United Nations would accept Iran’s partial dismantling of its nuclear infrastructure in what has been called “implementation day,” that “Iran has not relinquished its ambition to obtain nuclear weapons.”
Israel, the prime minister said Sunday, would strengthen its defenses, increase its intelligence resources and would “warn of any violation” of the agreement, while urging the United States and the other members of the U.N. Security Council to reimpose harsh sanctions on Iran if violated the deal.
The main question now for Israel is whether the International Atomic Energy Agency, which will monitor Iran’s compliance with the deal, acts in a way “more political or more professional,” Amidror said. He also wondered “how much effort American intelligence will make, despite the agreement, to try to find Iranian violations.”
For the moment, he said, he had confidence in Israel’s developing system of anti-missile defenses, especially the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 systems, which are the country’s main defense against any potential Iranian missile strike.
New York Times
Details of 7 Iranians granted clemency in prisoner swap
One was an aerospace expert convicted of helping Iran launch its first satellite into space. Another was a maritime engineer found guilty of providing navigation technology to the Iranians. And three men had ties to a company accused of illegally exporting millions of dollars in U.S. technology with military applications to Iran.
They were among the seven Iranians accused or convicted of violating U.S. trade sanctions against Iran and granted clemency by President Barack Obama as part of a prisoner release between the two long-estranged nations.
More details about the seven men, six of whom are dual U.S.-Iranian citizens, became known Sunday, as the United States prepared to welcome several of its own citizens who had been detained in Iran.
The semiofficial Fars News Agency in Iran identified the men as Nader Modanlo, Bahram Mechanic, Khosrow Afghahi, Tooraj Faridi, Arash Ghahreman, Nima Golestaneh and Ali Saboonchi. The U.S. State and Justice Departments declined Sunday to comment on the exchange.
In remarks at the White House on Sunday, Obama stressed that the seven men had not been charged with terrorism or other violent crimes, and he called their release a “one-time gesture to Iran given the unique opportunity offered by this moment and the larger circumstances at play.”
U.S. officials also agreed to drop charges and lift Interpol arrest notices on 14 other Iranians outside the country who had been accused of sanctions violations. U.S. officials had concluded, however, that they were never going to be extradited. Officials said that though none of the seven men had chosen to return to Iran at this time, they are free to do so.
New York Times
With wave of Iranian oil imminent, a shudder in Saudi Arabia
A new wave of oil from Iran will flow into a global market awash in oil where prices are plunging to depths not seen in a dozen years.
With a historic nuclear deal between Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers set into place this weekend, a European oil embargo on the world’s seventh-largest oil producer will end.
The most immediate fallout may be a steep drop in crude oil prices starting with the Asian market on Monday morning.
The anxiety already was palpable in Saudi Arabia’s stock market, which plunged more than 5 percent Sunday. Saudi Arabia is the biggest oil producer within OPEC, the oil cartel with waning influence to which Iran also belongs.