Updated on January 17 at 1:09 p.m. EST
President Obama on Sunday hailed the release of Americans from Iranian custody and the implementation of an historic accord to curb Iran’s nuclear program, pointing to the breakthroughs as products of diplomacy.
“The United States has never been afraid to pursue diplomacy. We could advance by engaging directly with the Iranian government,” Obama said in a statement from the White House. “We’ve seen the results.”
The organization tasked with inspecting and monitoring Iran’s nuclear stockpiles and sites formally certified Saturday that Tehran had fulfilled the commitments of the nuclear deal brokered last year and dismantled most of its nuclear program. Inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency said the country had taken concrete steps to scale back its nuclear infrastructure over the past three months—quite literally, as my colleague Matt Ford pointed out, as in the case of the nuclear reactor core at Arak, which was covered in concrete.
Administration officials say that if the Iranian government were to go back on the deal now, it would take more than a year for the country to create a nuclear bomb.
In exchange, President Obama signed an executive order that revoked or amended five earlier executive actions, lifting economic sanctions against Iran that have crippled the nation’s economy for years. The European Union and the United Nations also removed sanctions against the country.