“In return for these steps, the P5+1 is to provide limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible relief while maintaining the vast bulk of our sanctions, including the oil, finance, and banking sanctions architecture. If Iran fails to meet its commitments, we will revoke the relief,” a White House statement said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was informed of the nuclear deal earlier in the evening.
“This is an extremely important first step that sets the conditions for a resolution that will be in both our interests,” said a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity moments after the president’s speech. “We’re very clear-eyed in approaching it.”
“The six months will allow us time to make sure Iran doesn’t advance its nuclear capability. It also gives us the time and space to work something that is more permanent,” said the official. “We are in a better place now than we were without a deal. Iran has agreed not to advance further in its program, and this is a first step to take us to something more lasting. It’s just a first step.”
The news brought the Saturday night reception of the high-level Halifax International Security Forum to a halt. The conference hotel filled with Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and foreign military dignitaries froze to watch Obama’s White House statement on live television. Some delegates associated with the administration already had popped champagne and applauded Obama’s speech, while others said the temporary deal did nothing to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons goals.
“Despite what conservatives say, this deal is unquestionably better than no deal,” said Mieke Eoyang, director of national security at the Third Way and a former House intelligence committee staffer.
“This is a vindication of both a campaign promise and people arguing within the administration that a deal was possible,” said Heather Hurlburt, senior advisor at the National Security Network and a former speechwriter for President Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Randy Scheunemann, president of Orion Strategies and former foreign policy advisor to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), who attended the Halifax conference, harshly criticized the deal. “The point is to end the fuel cycle. The point is to end the nuclear program. The point is just when sanctions are starting to begin you don’t give them relief when they have a history of using negotiations to buy time.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani "has said if they can reach three and a half percent [enrichment] they can get nuclear weapons," Scheunemann said. "This lets them get to three and a half percent. At the end of six months, if they want to walk they give up nothing but six months and gain $6-7 billion.”
“They can’t take yes for an answer,” Eoyang retorted.
Obama, in his statement, said the deal places the onus on Iran to live up to its end of the bargain. “The burden is on Iran to prove to the world its nuclear program will be exclusively for peaceful purposes,” he said.
This post was originally published at Defense One.