U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says international sanctions on Iran could start to be lifted as soon as six months from now.
"There are certain things that Iran needs to do and the [International Atomic Energy Agency] needs to do, and those things have to be resolved -- all of them -- before the sanctions begin to be relieved," Kerry told Voice of America's Persian News Network in an exclusive interview that is to be published in full by VOA on July 21.
"So you're looking at somewhere about six months or so -- it's hard to say exactly; it depends on what happens. But I don't think there will be much felt before that," Kerry added.
Before the sanctions are lifted, a number of events outside Iran also must take place.
In particular, the U.S. Congress has 60 days to vote on the deal, and disapproval could provoke a prolonged veto battle with President Barack Obama. The U.S. State Department announced on July 19 that it had sent the Iran deal for Congressional review.
Kerry suggested to VOA on July 20 that the future of the deal should soon become clear. "September will be the critical moment when people will begin to learn whether or not in fact this [deal] will be implemented," he said.
Kerry's comments to VOA came the same day that the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed the deal agreed between world powers and Iran earlier this month. There is a 90-day grace period in place before sanctions can be lifted following the Security Council vote.
Iran and the Security Council's five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States -- plus Germany on July 14 announced the deal to curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief in Vienna, Austria.
The Security Council resolution passed by a vote of 15-0 on July 20 terminates seven UN resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran since 2006.
In return for the lifting certain U.S., EU, and UN sanctions, Iran must accept long-term limits on its nuclear program.
The deal is intended to assuage fears that Iran's nuclear program was aimed at creating an atomic bomb, although Tehran has long claimed it is a peaceful program.
Obama hailed the UN Security Council endorsement, saying it showed the deal had wide international support.
Diplomacy is "by far our strongest approach to ensuring that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon," he said, adding that he assumed Congress would pay attention to the "broad basic consensus" for the deal.
Bipartisan members of a skeptical Congress reacted by criticizing the White House's decision to allow the United Nations to have first say on the deal.
Republicans, who control both chambers of the U.S. Congress, called the UN vote an "affront to the American people" because it took place before the end of the congressional review period.
The European Union, meanwhile, approved the deal on July 21, as some members moved to revive trade relations with Tehran.
France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said on July 21 that he would visit Tehran "next week" at his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif's invitation, adding that he would also hold talks with Iranian President Hassan Rohani.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry quoted President Xi Jinping on July 21 as telling Obama that Beijing would work with the United States and other parties to ensure the deal's implementation.
However, the agreement continues to face stiff opposition in some Middle East states, including Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Israel warned U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on his visit on July 20 that it feared the pact would translate into more money for Hizballah, an Iranian-backed Lebanese militia group, and others hostile to Israel.
On July 18, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the nuclear deal would not change Tehran's policy toward the "arrogant" U.S. government.
In an interview with Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television on July 21, Kerry called Khamenei's statement, in which he vowed to defy U.S. policies in the Middle East, "very disturbing."
Iranian hard-liners have expressed concerns that UN inspectors could gain access to sensitive military sites under the resolution, which becomes international law.
The nuclear deal must be approved by Iran's National Security Council and later by Khamenei.
With reporting by VOA, Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa, and Xinhua
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