Iran and the European Union formally confirmed Jan. 16 that Tehran has kept its commitments under the nuclear deal reached with world powers in July. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini announced the agreement at a press conference in Vienna, as the European Council issued a statement saying it has “lifted all economic and financial sanctions against Iran related to the nuclear program.” In Washington, President Obama issued an executive order revoking sanctions on transactions by non-US citizens with the Central Bank of Iran and the National Iranian Oil Company. A White House official said Iran will have access to some $50 billion worth of assets that were frozen by the US. Iranian President Hassan Rohani tweeted: “Congrats on this glorious victory!” Average Iranians took to social media to express joy and relief at the lifting of sanctions and the easing of Iran’s international isolation.
Four Iranian-Americans held in Iran were also freed in a prisoner exchange as part of the deal, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. The seven Iranians freed under the swap had been held on sanctions violations.
However, Obama simultaneously imposed new sanctions against 11 entities and individuals linked to Iran’s missile program, barring them from using the US banking system. These sanctions were triggered by Iran conducting a ballistic missile test last October, violating a United Nations ban. Security Council resolution 1929 of June 2010 prohibits Tehran from conducting tests of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.
On Jan. 1, Rouhani anticipated the new sanctions, and voiced defiance: “Apparently, the US government is considering adding new individuals and institutions to the list of its previous oppressive sanctions. It’s necessary to continue with greater speed and seriousness the plan for production of various missiles needed by the armed forces within the approved defence policies.” (RFE/RL, BBC News, NYT, Jan. 17; Al Jazeera, Jan. 1; AFP, Dec. 15)