With three Americans long held in Iran flying to Europe on Sunday, President 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. Mr. 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.
The United States and European nations lifted oil and financial sanctions on Iran and released roughly $100 billion of its assets after international inspectors concluded that the country had followed through on promises to dismantle large sections of its nuclear program. “Iran has undertaken significant steps that many people – and I do mean many – doubted would ever come to pass,: Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday.
Iran’s foreign ministry said on Monday that Israeli lobbying was behind a new measure passed by the U.S. Congress that will prevent visa-free travel to the United States for people who have visited Iran or hold Iranian nationality. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday said it was “absurd” that Iran should be included on the list. “Existing sanctions not yet lifted, additional sanctions imposed,” ran the front-page headline of the hardline daily Kayhan on Monday.
Secretary of State John Kerry answered criticism by those who fear that a new law pertaining to travel visas could undermine the recent Iran nuclear agreement. “Recent changes in visa requirements passed in Congress, which the administration has the authority to waive, will not in any way prevent us from meeting our JPCOA requirements,” Kerry wrote Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in reference to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal.
Iran violated a United Nations Security Council resolution in October by test-firing a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, a team of sanctions monitors said, leading to calls in the United States for more sanctions on Tehran. The White House said it would not rule out additional steps against Iran over the test of the medium-range Emad rocket, on the same day that the global nuclear watchdog concluded its 12-year investigation into Iran’s nuclear activities.
Israel has said it is suspending contacts with European Union bodies involved in peace efforts with the Palestinians after the bloc started requiring exports from Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be labelled. After the EU announcement, Netanyahu called it “hypocritical and a double standard”, saying the EU was not taking similar steps in hundreds of territorial conflicts elsewhere in the world.
After years of talks, the agreement on the Iranian nuclear program was signed in Vienna on July 14, 2015, paving the way for an end to the embargo against Iran. The country is expected to begin dismantling nuclear facilities by the first quarter of 2016. Then, on what has been dubbed Implementation Day, most of the economic sanctions will be lifted. These are relatively vague prospects. Nevertheless, when the business owners from Lower Saxony go to breakfast the next morning, they quickly realize that they are not alone. The lobby of the Parsian Azadi Hotel is abuzz with delegations, Frenchmen, Croats on a “fact-finding” mission, Dutch, Italian and British businesspeople. Every day, there are reports in the Tehran Times on the arrival of “groups of high-ranking visitors,” “amicable talks” and the exchange of opinions and memoranda. It is literally a run on Tehran.