“Iran’s implementation of the nuclear-related measures …, as verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency, marks a fundamental shift in circumstances with respect to Iran’s nuclear program,” Obama said in the executive order issued by the White House.
Obama’s decision came after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed Iran’s compliance of the historic nuclear deal reached last summer.
In a statement, Yukiya Amano, the director general of the IAEA, said that “agency inspectors on the ground verified that Iran has carried out all measures required under the J.C.P.O.A., to enable implementation day to occur,” referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, reached by Iran and the U.S., Britain, France, China, Russiaand Germany.
In Vienna, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the step as a vindication of diplomacy, saying “we have also proven once again why diplomacy must be our first choice and war a last resort.”
“Iran has undertaken significant steps that many, and I do mean many, people doubted would ever come to pass,” he said, adding that “today marks the first day of a safer world.”
On Saturday, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan vigorously denounced the nuclear deal, vowing that lawmakers would “do everything possible” to prevent Tehran from getting the atomic bomb.
The Republican leader warned in a statement that “Iran is likely to use this cash infusion — more than 100 billion U.S. dollars in total — to finance terrorists.”
“This comes just weeks after Tehran’s most recent illegal ballistic missile test, and just days after the IRGC detained 10 American sailors,” he said, referring to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“A bipartisan majority in the House voted to reject this deal in the first place, and we will continue to do everything possible to prevent a nuclear Iran,” he said.
Obama’s announcement to lift sanctions on Iran came just hours after Iran said it had released four Americans, including a Washington Post reporter, Jason Rezaian, as part of a prisoner swap with the United States.
Iran’s prosecutor general announced that “in line with the order of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and the interests of the country, Iran has released four Iranian dual-national prisoners as a part of prisoners swap.”
When talking to IRINN on Saturday, an informed source identified the released inmates as the Iranian-Americans: Saeed Abedini, Amir Mirzaee Hekmati, Nosratollah Khosravi and Jason Rezaian.
U.S. media reported that Washington will either pardon or drop charges against seven Iranians in exchange for the prisoner swap.
The seven Iranians — six of whom are dual citizens — were either accused or convicted of violating U.S. sanctions.
Three of the Iranians were serving prison terms and now have received a commutation or pardon, and three others were awaiting trial. The last one made a plea agreement.