The White House announced Monday that the agreement between the United States and other world and Iran to freeze parts of Tehran's nuclear activities for six months would begin today.
The announcement came after the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran has taken the initial specific steps it committed to on or by Jan. 20, as part of the Joint Plan of Action between the nations. .Iran has stopped producing 20 percent enriched uranium, has disabled the configuration of the centrifuge cascades it has been using to produce it, has begun diluting its existing stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium, and started started providing the IAEA with more information about the nuclear program, through more frequent and intrusive inspections.
"These actions represent the first time in nearly a decade that Iran has verifiably enacted measures to halt progress on its nuclear program, and roll it back in key respects," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. "Taken together, these concrete actions represent an important step forward." In return, the world powers -- the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China, as well as the European Union -- will begin to provide modest economic relief agreed.
The countries will begin the process of negotiating a long-term, comprehensive solution that seeks to address the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear program.
"The United States remains committed to using strong and disciplined diplomacy to reach a peaceful resolution that will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Carney said.
Last week, President Barack Obama lobbied senators not implement additional sanctions against Iran that could sabotage his diplomatic efforts.
Obama has threatened to veto a Senate bill calling for additional sanctions against Iran that he insists could threaten his administration's efforts to curb portions of Tehran’s nuclear program. The bill may already have enough support to override a veto.
The United States and other world powers struck a temporary agreement with Iran last weekend that would freeze parts of Iran’s nuclear activities for six months in return for a partial easing of economic sanctions that have been imposed by the United States and the European Union.
The agreement, which takes effect Monday, allows longer-term negotiations to continue. The sanctions in the Senate bill would not take effect unless those negotiations fail.
The House already voted for new sanctions against Tehran in July, a measure that has not been taken up in the Senate.
Supporters of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013 argue that it will pressure the Iranians to negotiate in good faith or face economic distress. On Wednesday, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee urged Congress to act this week to pass the bill.
The agreement came after Obama and Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, began exchanging letters this summer, followed by a historic telephone call between the two leaders. At the same time, the U.S. and Iran had been engaging in secret talks since March.
Last week, the White House released to Congress and the public the "technical understandings" related to the nuclear deal or instructions to the International Atomic Energy Agency -- the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency -- for how it carries out the joint plan of action.