Iran has halted its most sensitive nuclear operations under a preliminary deal with world powers, winning some relief from economic sanctions on Monday in a ground-breaking exchange that could ease a threat of war.
The United States and European Union both suspended some trade and other restrictions against the OPEC oil producer after the United Nations' nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran had fulfilled its side of an agreement made on Nov. 24.
The announcements, which coincided with a diplomatic row over Iran's role at peace talks on Syria, will allow six months of negotiation on a definitive accord that the West hopes can end fears of Tehran developing nuclear weapons and Iran wants to end sanctions that are crippling its economy.
Mark Dubowitz, head of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington and a proponent of tough sanctions on Iran, said that by providing short-term economic relief, the West was losing future bargaining power with Tehran.
"The interim deal does nothing over the next 12 months to prevent Iran from proceeding with the nuclear-weapon and ballistic-missile research that are the keys to a deliverable nuclear weapon," he said. "Ahead of final negotiations, Tehran will be in a stronger position to block peaceful Western efforts to dismantle its military-nuclear programme."