“This is a good day,” touted President Obama this past Sunday. The weekend brought encouraging developments on the Iranian front.
Not only has Iran released American prisoners, but it is also honoring its end of the 2015 nuclear deal.
The Iranian nuclear deal was forged last July between Iran and the world powers of the United Nations Security Council and the European Union.
The framework deal stipulates that Iran must drastically decrease its numbers of centrifuges, reduce its uranium stockpile and dismantle a heavy-water reactor.
These parameters were put in place to reduce Iranian nuclear facilities in order to prevent the country from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Iran has started to fulfill the conditions of the nuclear deal by destroying a heavy water reactor in Arak following the removal of its core.
Watchdog agencies have overseen Iran’s compliance. John Kirby, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department has confirmed that the work of pouring concrete into the central vessel of the reactor was completed on Wednesday.
Additionally, Secretary of State John Kerry stated, and President Obama reiterated, that only two percent of Iran’s uranium stockpile remains, with two-thirds of the country’s centrifuges have been removed.
In accordance with this compliance and verification by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has indeed been scaling its nuclear program back, sanctions that had been implemented against Iran are being lifted.
Economic sanctions have dealt a blow to Iran, costing the country more than $160 billion in oil revenue since 2012.
Now that these sanctions have been lifted, Iran will be able to sell its oil on international markets again.
Additionally, billions of dollars in Iranian overseas assets will be unfrozen, and the country will be able to trade through the global financial system.
Another encouraging development on the Iranian front is a prisoner swap that occurred between the country and the United States.
Five Americans that were detained in Iran, some as far back as 2011, have been released.
Among the released detainees are Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter arrested for allegations of espionage, as well as three Iranian-American prisoners.
Separate from the prisoner exchange, a fifth American has also been released.
In exchange for the release of these American prisoners, the United States is pardoning or commuting the sentences of an Iranian and six dual citizens of the U.S. and Iran.
These men were convicted of trade sanction violations for exporting products to Iran. Additionally, U.S. officials have reportedly intimated that charges against 14 Iranian fugitives will also be dismissed.
Despite concessions that have been made by Iran, there still remains the opportunity for further progress in other areas.
Not all of the sanctions were lifted. Residual sanctions imposed by the U.S. in response to human rights issues and other non-nuclear issues will remain.
Furthermore, additional sanctions have recently been imposed targeting other fronts.
The day following the prisoner exchange, the U.S. Treasury announced that it would be imposing new sanctions aimed at Iran’s ballistic, rather than nuclear weapons, program.
These sanctions have been implemented against 11 companies and other individuals who have aided Iran’s attempts to procure weapons for its ballistic missiles program as a response to the country’s recent ballistic missiles tests.
In light of these developments, President Obama has taken a positive outlook: “I’m hopeful that this signals opportunity for Iran to work more cooperatively with nations around the world to advance their interests and for people looking for peace and security for their families.”
Even though progress has been made, disagreements and sanctions still remain.