(Bloomberg) -- The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing an agreement that places curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
All 15 members of the council approved the resolution which authorizes the phased lifting of sanctions once the International Atomic Energy Agency verifies Iran’s implementation of a series of nuclear-related measures.
While the resolution terminates seven previous UN resolutions, it contains a “snap back” mechanism that will at any time restore all former punitive measures if Iran breaches the deal it signed last week with China, France, Russia, the U.K., the U.S. and Germany.
The vote comes after protests from U.S. lawmakers over President Barack Obama allowing UN action on the Iran deal before Congress completes its own 60-day review of the agreement. Many Republican lawmakers and a number of Democrats have already expressed skepticism over the accord’s ability to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and threatened to vote against implementing the deal.
Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee who chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the panel’s ranking Democrat, sent a joint letter to Obama on July 16 urging him to postpone the UN vote until after Congress votes on the agreement.
The UN adoption will “send a clear message” that there is a broad international consensus on the deal being the “strongest approach to ensuring that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon,” Obama said after the UN vote.
I believe that “Congress will pay attention to that broad” consensus, Obama said.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican presidential candidate, said on Monday “the Iranian deal may be good enough for the United Nations, but it’s a terrible deal for the United States.”
“Congress is not bound by today’s UN decision,” Graham said in an e-mailed statement. “I look forward to a full and complete debate in the coming weeks.”
As part of the congressional review, lawmakers this week will question Secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who were across the negotiating table from their Iranian counterparts, and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, whose department administers crippling economic sanctions that would be eased as part of the deal.
If Iran demonstrates that its nuclear activities have been and are peaceful, it could start exporting gas and regain access to more than $100 billion in frozen overseas assets and the global financial system as soon as December or early 2016. The UN embargo on conventional arms sales to and from Iran will also be lifted after five years, and the ban on ballistic missile sales expires after eight years.
U.S. Ambassador to UN Samantha Power emphasized that sanctions will be lifted only when Iran “verifiably” meets its commitments.
Power also reiterated that the deal “doesn’t change our profound concern” about Iran’s human rights violations, its support for terrorist proxies, its repeated threats against Israel and other destabilizing activities in the region.
The U.S. will continue to invest in the security of its allies in the region and maintain its own sanctions related to Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missiles program and its human rights violations, Power said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the adoption as legitimizing “a state that systematically violates UN Security Council resolutions and calls for the destruction of UN member-state Israel,” according to an e-mailed statement issued shortly after the UN vote.
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who is visiting the Middle East this week to reassure allies and Arab partners nervous about the nuclear agreement, said the U.S. retains all military options.
The deal “places no limitations” on the U.S. or the Pentagon to counter the “malign influence” of Iran, Carter told reporters en route to Israel, his first stop in the region. He arrived in Tel-Aviv on Sunday.
More than three hours after the UN adoption, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted, “Iran never got a fair treatment from #UNSC in the last 35 yrs. Expect to see evidence of ‘fundamental shift’ promised in today’s resolution.”
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