'Historic mistake': Israelis, Republicans condemn Iran nuclear deal

Israel and some Republicans in Congress called the nuclear deal hammered out between Iran and world powers very dangerous, despite assurances from the United States that the pact would make American allies in the region safer.

“What was achieved last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement. It was a historic mistake,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting Sunday morning. “Today the world become a much more dangerous place, because the most dangerous regime in the world took a significant step towards getting the most dangerous weapon in the world.” 

iranmissile_small2 'Historic mistake': Israelis, Republicans condemn Iran nuclear deal

The agreement between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia aims to halt the progress of the Iranian nuclear program and rolls back key parts of it

Struck with great speed given a history of failed negotiations, it also comes less than three months after Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani promised, in an interview with NBC News, to dramatically alter Iran’s relationship with the world.

Secretary of State John Kerry lays out some of the exact terms of the nuclear deal with Iran.

Earlier, Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon called the agreement “extremely dangerous for the free world.”

“It goes without saying that all options remain on the table and that Israel has the capability – and the responsibility – to defend itself using any means necessary,” Danon said in a statement.  

The West and Israel fear that Iran has been seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran denies this, saying its nuclear program is a peaceful energy project. 

The White House has tried to reassure Israel that its fear that a deal would leave it vulnerable was unfounded. Late Saturday, President Barack Obama admitted huge challenges remain and said Iran’s promises will be put to the test over the next six months.

“As we go forward, the resolve of the United States will remain firm, as will our commitment to our friends and allies – particularly Israel and our Gulf partners, who have good reason to be skeptical about Iran’s intentions,” he said. 

Emphasizing the United States’ commitment to Israel as well as his personal relationship with Netanyahu, Kerry said on Sunday that the two allies continue to share the same strategy and the United States will not tolerate a nuclear Iran threatening Israel. 

President Obama says the historic nuclear deal with Iran is a first step.  He added, the U.S. will continue to implement tough sanctions, but won’t impose new ones if Iran meets its commitments during the next six months.

“There is no difference whatsoever between the United States and Israel about what the end goal is,” Kerry said. 

Earlier in the news conference, Kerry said the agreement could not have been reached without the Iranians’ decision to come to the negotiating table. He said the next phase of talks, while even more difficult will also be more important

“If this first step leads to what is our ultimate goal – which is a comprehensive agreement – that will make the world safer,” he said.

An agreement with Iran will likely also affect U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia, a Sunni nation, which is threatened by signs of improved U.S. relations with Shiite Iran.

Gulf reaction to the announced Iran deal has been divided. Behind the scenes, senior Gulf diplomats have had a host of mixed feelings, sources told NBC News.

The UAE officially has welcomed the deal but at least one senior Gulf diplomat was much more critical and expressed skepticism over the deal.

Others see the U.S. holding secret meetings with Iranian officials in Oman over the past year as “insulting” because the U.S. has pressured Gulf countries like the UAE to step up sanctions on Iran, much to the detriment of their own economic self-interests. For years, the UAE was a major economic hub for Iranian commerce but since sanctions were increased, business has declined.

The deal stipulates that Iran will commit to halt uranium enrichment above 5 percent and also to neutralize its stockpile of near-20 percent uranium. The Islamic Republic has also committed to halt progress on its enrichment capacity. Iran will also halt work at its plutonium reactor and provide access to nuclear inspectors. 

In exchange, the United States and its allies have agreed to offer Iran “modest relief” from economic sanctions and access to a portion of the revenue that the country has been denied through these sanctions. No new sanctions will be imposed. 

The Obama administration also faces skeptics in Congress. Reaction poured in late Saturday and early Sunday and appeared to be divided along party lines.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that the deal does not meet the standards necessary to protect the United States and its allies.

“Instead of rolling back Iran’s program, Tehran would be able to keep the key elements of its nuclear weapons-making capability.  Yet we are the ones doing the dismantling – relieving Iran of the sanctions pressure built up over years,” Royce said in a statement.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., echoed those concerns, saying in a statement he found it “troubling” that the agreement “still permits the Iranians to continue enriching.”

“Iran’s long history of noncompliance with the U.N. Security Council is well known, as is its use of secret facilities to pursue its nuclear program,” Cantor added.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., warned that the deal sets a bad precedent.

“This agreement shows other rogue states that wish to go nuclear that you can obfuscate, cheat, and lie for a decade, and eventually the United States will tire and drop key demands,” Rubio said in a statement.