WASHINGTON, D.C. (Talk Media News) – President Barack Obama on Sunday hailed the “smart” diplomacy that led to the Iran nuclear deal, the quick release of U.S. sailors detained after they strayed into Iranian waters and the release of five Americans separately detained by the nation.
“This is a good day, because once again we’re seeing what’s possible with strong American diplomacy,” Obama said from the White House. “When Americans are freed and returned to their families, that’s something we can all celebrate.”
On Sunday, a new phase of the Iran nuclear accord began, with the U.S. and European nations lifting financial sanctions on Iran. International inspectors concluded that Iran complied with stipulations of the accord, dismantling large portions of its nuclear program, thus granting it access to roughly $100 billion in withheld assets.
However, in the same breath the President announced a new set of sanctions on Iranian companies and individuals over a recent ballistic missile test.
“If we had not engaged in diplomacy around the nuclear issue, Iran right now would not have rolled back its program, it would be on the verge of having the capability to build a nuclear weapon. If we did not have these diplomatic channels with Iranians that have been established the last two or three years, it is very likely that our sailors who had gone into Iranian waters would still be detained there today. If we did not have this diplomatic channel with Iran, we certainly would not have our Americans coming home,” a senior White House official said following the President’s address.
With the Swiss acting as middle men, the U.S. and Iran arranged a prisoner swap separate from the nuclear deal. The Americans released include Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, Marine veteran Amir Hekmati, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and businessman Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari. Language student Matt Trevithick was also released, while not officially part of the swap. The U.S. offered clemency to seven Iranians in exchange, all of whom President Obama said were detained by the U.S. on offenses related to sanctions and the trade embargo–not terrorism.
Also, Iran agreed to deepen coordination in the search for former FBI agent and CIA contractor Robert Levinson who went missing in Iran in 2007, Obama said.
Obama called the release a “one time gesture to Iran.” He said that, “even as we implement the nuclear deal and welcome our Americans home, we recognize that there remain profound differences between the U.S. and Iran.”
A White House official named human rights abuses, their recent use of ballistic missiles, support of terrorism, as well as support for Houthis rebels in Yemen as examples.
The White House called the diplomacy with Iran the broadest engagement at any time since 1979, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took control of the country during the Iranian Revolution.
“We’ve achieved this historic progress through diplomacy without resorting to another war in the Middle East,” Obama said.
Also on Sunday, the U.S. and Iran settled a decades-old dispute over funds Iran had used to purchase military equipment from the United States in 1981. The end of the longstanding claim at the Hague released $400 million, and $1.3 billion in interest, from the U.S. to Iran.
Listen to the full address below: