Listen to the story.
Aaron Schachter: I’m Aaron Schachter in for Marco Werman and you’re tuned to The World. Finally, a deal of historic proportions; really big. But here’s the cliffsnotes version of it: Iran accepts restrictions on its nuclear program and in return gets relief on sanctions. President Obama today hailed the agreement, saying it prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
[Excerpt from audio]
Schachter: Obama’s comments were heard live on Iranian TV today. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, also praised the deal. Speaking through a translator here, he said it shouldn’t be viewed as a win/lose proposition.
[Excerpt from audio]
Schachter: Of course, not everyone is sold on the agreement. Obama and Rouhani both face enormous skepticism at home. And then there’s Israel. More on that in a few minutes. But first, let’s get an overview of the deal from Iran expert, Barbara Slavin. She’s author of a book about Iran/US relations called “Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies.”
Barbara Slavin: This is a landmark agreement between the international community and Iran, and between the United States and Iran, which although they haven’t had diplomatic relations for 35-36 years, have spent a great part of the last two years negotiating this deal. So, we can talk about the technical aspects of it--it’s intended to keep Iran from being able to develop a nuclear weapon for at least decade, in return for relief of economic sanctions. But I think even more important is that it shows that it is possible to have a diplomatic resolution to an issue that could have brought the United States and other countries to the brink of war with Iran.
Schachter: Now, you seem pretty positive about this thing and yet there’s a whole lot of opposition both from Congress and, of course, from Israel. What is it that they’re missing or what is it that they don’t understand?
Slavin: Well, I think they’re right to be skeptical--all of us should be skeptical. This is an enormously complicated agreement with many moving parts and implementation will begin and may go for years and years; there are likely to be problems that will have to be resolved. And, of course, the concern of Israel and the Arab states across the Persian Gulf from Iran is that Iran is going to get a lot richer, it’s going to get its hands on frozen assets, it’s going to be able to sell oil freely again, be able to trade freely with the international community. So, they’re worried that Iran is going to take this new wealth and put it into destabilizing activities in the region. The hope is that Iran will spend the bulk of this money on dealing with urgent domestic priorities.
Schachter: Now, Congress has 60 days to review this deal, correct? They get the full text. And what if they say no?
Slavin: Well, President Obama has already said in his early morning comments that he would veto any resolution to disapprove the agreement. So, the task before the opponents is to get a sufficient number of votes to override a veto and I think that’s going to be very difficult.
Schachter: Now, without approval from Congress, without a positive view from Congress, does this deal really mean very much?
Slavin: Yes, it does. The president of the United States has the authority, and most of the major agreements that are reached between the United States and foreign countries are executive agreements. This is not a treaty; it does not require a two-thirds vote in the Senate to ratify it. The Iranian parliament doesn’t have to formally ratify something called the Additional Protocol for eight years. Iran will implement it without having its parliament formally ratify it. So, this is a deal between governments, between executive branches. And remember: it’s not just the United States and Iran, it’s Iran and the international community, it’s the P5+1, it’s the security council, permanent members plus Germany, that are all signing off on this deal.
Schachter: Now Barbara, you’ve obviously been following these talks for a very long time and you’re in touch with a lot of Iranians, you’ve visited Iran. What does this moment mean for you personally?
Slavin: Well, I tried to go to sleep last night after the announced that the announcement wouldn’t come until this morning. I didn’t get very much sleep. This has been my work now, quite solidly, for the last five years with the Atlantic Council, and I’ve been going to Iran for 20 years now. I know so many people who are hoping that their country will change in a positive way, who are hoping that they’ll no longer be seen as international pariahs. I know so many Iranian Americans who want to put the two-halves of their identities together in a constructive way. So even though I’m not Iranian, it’s a very emotional day, I have to say. It is a moment, I think, to sit back, take a deep breath, and simply feel good about the fact that in this violent world, something can be resolved peacefully and through diplomacy.
Schachter: That was Barbara Slavin, a fellow with the Atlantic Council.