On Saturday, the long-awaited Implementation Day of the Iranian nuclear deal arrived, signaling the lifting of crippling sanctions on Iran and the flow of billions of dollars into the country.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a UN nuclear watchdog group, announced on Saturday that Iran had fulfilled its obligations under the agreement, which included shipping out 25,000 pounds of enriched uranium and dismantling elements of its nuclear program.
Minutes later, US formally lifted its sanctions on Iran’s banking, steel, and shipping industries with an executive order signed by President Barack Obama. The European Union also began the process of lifting sanctions.
The easing of the sanctions will allow about $100 billion in overseas frozen assets back into the hands of Iran, money which opponents of the deal say Iran will use to fund terrorism.
US Secretary of State John Kerry heralded the move as a great step forward for international security. “The United States, our friends and allies in the Middle East, and the entire world are safer because the threat of the nuclear weapon has been reduced,” he said in a statement from Vienna.
The fulfillment of the deal also received praise from EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who represents the P5+1 group of six world powers which negotiated the deal with Iran. Mogherini said proudly that the achievement proves that “political will, perseverance” and “multilateral diplomacy” can “solve the most difficult issues.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised the implementation of the deal as well, calling it a “significant milestone”. He added that there is a need for those in the region to “make the world a safer place through dialogue and peaceful means.”
However, the implementation of the deal was met with dark skepticism and warnings by Israeli officials, who have spoken out strongly against the deal from the beginning of negotiations.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that despite the deal, “Iran has not relinquished its ambition to obtain nuclear weapons, and continues to act to destabilize the Middle East and spread terror throughout the world while violating its international commitments.”
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Public Security Minister, said that the implementation of the deal, contrary to Kerry’s claim, would endanger the Middle East and fail to halt Iran’s nuclear program.
“The ‘implementation day’ of the nuclear agreement ushers us into a new and dangerous era, in which Iran is freed from most of its economic sanctions, without having to quit its nuclear program or provide explanations for its military activities,” he warned in a statement.