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Iran to temporarily halt nuclear program in historic international agreement

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Kerry Geneva (Flickr US Mission Geneva)
Kerry Geneva (Flickr US Mission Geneva)

In what's being described as a first step towards a more comprehensive deal, the US and five other countries have reached a deal with Iran for that country to freeze its nuclear program. The deal, reached late last night after months of negotiation, would see Iran cease enriching uranium beyond five percent and begin diluting material that had been enriched beyond 20 percent — both of which should mean that Iran could produce nuclear energy, but not nuclear weapons. In exchange, some of the economic sanctions that have been placed on the country will be lifted — including oil revenue funds that have been frozen internationally, it will amount to around $6 billion for the Iranian economy. Iran will also allow UN inspectors daily access to its nuclear facilities.

In a statement hailing the deal, President Obama said that the terms "cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb." Critics, including some in Congress, expressed concern that this deal doesn't go far enough because it doesn't completely dismantle Iran's enrichment program. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the deal "a historic mistake" because "the most dangerous regime in the world made a significant step in obtaining the most dangerous weapons in the world."

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has long said that Iran has a "right" to develop uranium and though this deal doesn't recognize such a right, it does allow for some level of uranium enrichment — but Iran will need to stop work on on a heavy water reactor that could have produced plutonium. Rouhani, who has been remarkably active on Twitter, even went to far as to retweet the US State Department after the deal was signed.

The key question now is whether this deal will, as Obama contends, "create time and space over the next six months for more negotiations to fully address our comprehensive concerns about the Iranian program." Gary Samore, president of United Against Nuclear Iran, told The New York Times that "at the end of six months, we may see another half step and six more months of negotiations — ad infinitum." US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was reportedly instrumental in security the deal, said today that the US enters into the deal "with eyes absolutely wide open. We have no illusions."