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U.N. Security Council Prepares To Implement Iran Nuclear Deal


Exhausted negotiators reached a deal to curb Iran's nuclear program, and now the sales pitches begin in Washington and Tehran. President Obama framed this as a choice between war and peace.


BARACK OBAMA: Without a diplomatic resolution, either I or a future U.S. president would face a decision about whether or not to allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon or whether to use our military to stop it.


President Obama faces to skeptical lawmakers, and we'll hear more about that in a moment. He also faces nervous allies in the Middle East who fear that the deal will embolden Iran. NPR's Michele Kelemen begins our coverage with a look at what's next.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Two-and-a-half weeks after he flew to Vienna for this final round of negotiation, Secretary of State John Kerry emerged with what he calls the best deal that was possible. He's brushing aside those who say the U.S. is giving up too much in the way of sanctions relief.


JOHN KERRY: I will tell you sanctioning Iran until it capitulates makes for a powerful talking point and a pretty good political speech, but it's not achievable outside a world of fantasy.

KELEMEN: The reality for Kerry is that he was negotiating not just with Iran, but also with other world powers, including Russia and China, which wanted to move quickly to end an arms embargo in addition to other sanctions. The U.S. compromised with a plan to keep U.N. restrictions on arms sales in place for another five years and eight years for ballistic missiles. There were other last-minute compromises in a deal that Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, calls a win-win.


MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Today could have been the end of hope on this issue, but now we are starting a new chapter of hope. And let's build on that. Let's consider this everybody's achievement.

KELEMEN: Iran has agreed to limits on its nuclear program for a decade and wide-ranging international inspections. The U.N. Security Council is expected to meet as early as next week to endorse the deal and replace older resolutions, a fairly pro-forma vote since all the permanent members were part of the negotiations. International sanctions will be suspended once the International Atomic Energy Agency confirms that Iran is holding up its end of the bargain, and that economic relief worries Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: In the coming decade, the deal will reward Iran, the terrorist regime in Tehran, with hundreds of billions of dollars. This cash bonanza will fuel Iran's terrorism worldwide, its aggression in the region and its efforts to destroy Israel, which are ongoing.

KELEMEN: The Israeli leader describes the nuclear deal with Iran as a, quote, "historic mistake," saying it does not deal at all with Iran's aggressive behavior in the region. He spoke about this with President Obama who is sending Defense Secretary Ash Carter to Israel next week. The administration will have to spend a lot of time reassuring not just Israel, but also Saudi Arabia and other allies that are nervous about Iran's regional ambitions. That job will fall to Secretary Kerry, who clearly sees this as a legacy issue.


KERRY: Years ago when I left college, I went to war, and I learned in war the price that is paid when diplomacy fails. And I made a decision that if I ever was lucky enough to be in a position to make a difference, I would try to do so.

KELEMEN: He says he's convinced that in the case of Iran, his persistence at the negotiating table will pay off. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.