VIDEO: Obama Praises Diplomacy over War in Historic Day with Iran

Washington, D.C. President Barack Obama lauded a historic 24 hour period in U.S.-Iran relations, commending “strong American diplomacy” after the implementation of a landmark nuclear deal and a prisoner swap that led to the release of five Americans held by Iran.

ObamaWeeklyAddress20090124Barack Obama’s first Weekly Address as President of the U.S.,
January 24th, 2009. Photo: Wikipedia / The
 White House.

Both countries announced the prisoner swap Saturday leading to the release of the Americans in exchange for clemency for seven Iranians charged or convicted for violating U.S. trade sanctions against Iran.

Shortly after, Washington confirmed that billions of dollars in international sanctions on Iran would be lifted after Iran met its obligations under a July 2015 nuclear accord.

“Iran now doesn’t have enough of this material for even one bomb,” Obama said.

WATCH: President Obama on Nuclear Agreement, Prisoner Exchange, New Sanctions

President Obama also acknowledged an announcement by the U.S. Treasury Department Sunday that imposes new sanctions on five individuals and several companies for ties to Tehran’s ballistic missile program.

“The nuclear deal was never intended to resolve all of our differences with Iran,” the president said.

“We will continue to enforce these sanctions vigorously,” he added of the missile sanctions. “We are going to remain vigilant about it.”

Rouhani: ‘new chapter’ for Islamic Republic

In a speech earlier Sunday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the Islamic Republic has entered a “new chapter” in its history, while praising the end of the international sanctions.

The Department of State also announced Sunday that Washington and Tehran reached a deal at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in the Hague that will free up roughly $1.7 billion to Iran.  The sum is largely interest on $400 million paid for undelivered U.S. military equipment nearly 40 years ago.  The goods were ordered under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, before diplomatic ties between the two countries disintegrated following the 1979 embassy hostage crisis.

About 4,700 U.S. companies and individuals received approximately $2.5 billion in awards from the Tribunal in the first 20 years after it was created in 1981.

Sanctions lifted

The United States and other world powers lifted oil and economic sanctions Saturday after the International Atomic Energy Agency certified that Tehran complied with the terms of an agreement reached in Vienna last July after nearly two years of intense negotiations.  The terms included shipping almost all of Iran’s nuclear fuel out of the country, dismantling and removing its nuclear equipment, and providing international inspectors greater access to its nuclear facilities.

In addition to ending the sanctions, Iran would have access to billions of dollars of assets in foreign banks that have been frozen for years.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said “our friends and allies in the Middle East, and the entire world are safer because the threat of the nuclear weapon has been reduced.”

Reaction

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Saturday’s announcement a “significant milestone.”

News of “Implementation Day” was greeted with skepticism by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the most vocal opponent of the deal in the international community. He warned that “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.”

The end of sanctions was also greeted with scorn in the United States by many of President Barack Obama’s Republican opponents, especially the party’s 2016 presidential candidates.

“It seems to be an indication of where we are going. That Iran deal is the dumbest deal I think I’ve ever seen,” said Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a recent campaign event.

House speaker Paul Ryan added to the criticism. “A bipartisan majority in the House voted to reject this deal in the first place, and we will continue to do everything possible to prevent a nuclear Iran,” he said.

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader said “While we have no illusions about the Iranian regime, we have once again seen the value of the enhanced diplomatic relationship created through our historic nuclear agreement.”

Rouhani dismissed any criticism of the nuclear during his speech to the Iranian parliament.  He said everyone is happy “except Zionists, warmongers fueling discord in the Islamic world, and hardliners in the U.S.”

The deal is a triumph for Rouhani, considered a moderate cleric who was elected in 2013 on a pledge to reform his country’s economy.  But Tehran’s hopes of an instant windfall by its return to the global oil markets will likely be tempered due to the massive glut of oil, which dropped to $30 per barrel this week for the first time in a decade.

VOA’s Pamela Dockins contributed to this report from the State Department.

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