Washington – President Barack Obama marked the anniversary of the landmark nuclear deal with Iran on Thursday by vowing that the United States and its partners will uphold their commitments as long as Iran abides by the pact. Congressional Republicans again tried to undermine the international accord, which outlines what Iran must do to pull back its nuclear program from the brink of weapons-making capacity.
The U.S., other world powers and Iran finalized the nuclear pact on July 14, 2015, after nearly two years of intense negotiations. In exchange for Tehran rolling back its nuclear program, the U.S. and other world powers agreed to suspend wide-ranging oil, trade and financial sanctions that had choked the Iranian economy.
Obama hailed the deal Thursday, saying it has succeeded in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program, “avoiding further conflict and making us safer.”
The Republican-controlled House, meanwhile, approved a bill to impose new sanctions on Iran for its continuing development and testing of its ballistic missile program. The 246-179 vote was largely along party lines.
Lawmakers also approved a measure that would restate U.S. policy to deny the Iranian government and banks access to U.S. dollars. The vote on that bill was 246-181.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, said the Obama administration has shown it does not intend to hold Iran accountable for its ballistic missile program, human rights violations and support of terrorism.
“We want to penalize the Iranian government for their continued illegal activity,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said of congressional Republicans.
Democrats called the GOP bills cynical attempts to score partisan points in an election year.
“This isn’t a serious bill,” Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said of the sanctions bill. “We should not relitigate this issue. Our work now should be to hold Iran to its obligations and make sure the deal is being fully implemented.”
The votes came a day after the House approved a measure Wednesday that calls for prohibiting the Obama administration from buying more of Iran’s heavy water, a key component in certain nuclear reactors. The White House has said removing the country’s surplus heavy water denies Tehran access to a material that may be stored for potential nuclear weapons production.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who led negotiations on the deal, said Thursday that a program that many people said would not work and would make the world more dangerous “has, in fact, made the world safer” and ensured that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter that the Iran deal was a “triumph of diplomacy over coercion. Same stark choice for US today, and reminder: old methods produce same old failures. Progress will remain elusive as long as short-sighted bragging, lackluster implementation of obligations and tired slogans are preferred.”
Boris Johnson, the new British foreign secretary, said the anniversary of the Iran nuclear deal “reminds us of the historic diplomatic breakthrough in Vienna that has made the world a safer place and is bringing real benefits to the people of Iran.”