World powers lifted crippling sanctions against the Iran in return for its complying with a deal to curb its nuclear ambitions.
Tens of billions of dollars worth of Iranian assets will now be unfrozen and global companies that have been barred from doing business there will be able to exploit a market hungry for everything from automobiles to airplane parts.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog IAEA ruled that Iran had abided by an agreement last year with six world powers to curtail its nuclear programme, triggering the end of sanctions.
“Iran has carried out all measures required under the (July deal) to enable Implementation Day (of the deal) to occur,” the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.
Within minutes, the United States formally lifted banking, steel, shipping and other sanctions on Iran, a major oil producer which has been virtually shut out of international markets for the past five years.
The European Union also began the process of lifting sanctions and Iran’s transport minister said Tehran plans to buy 114 civil aircraft from European aircraft maker Airbus.
The end of sanctions means more money and prestige for Shi’ite Muslim Iran as it becomes deeply embroiled in the sectarian conflicts of the Middle East, notably in the Syrian civil war where its allies are facing Sunni Muslim rebels.
America’s thaw with Iran is viewed with deep suspicion by U.S. Republicans as well as American allies in the Middle East, including Israel and Saudi Arabia. U.S.-Iranian suspicion still remains deeply entrenched.
In an unusual move, President Barack Obama pardoned three Iranian-Americans charged for violating sanctions against Iran, while prosecutors moved to drop charges against four Iranians outside the United States.
Iran agreed to free five Americans including Rezaian and Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American Christian pastor sentenced to eight years in prison in 2013 on charges of undermining Iran’s national security.
The prisoner deal was the culmination of months of diplomatic contacts, secret talks and legal manoeuvring which came close to falling apart because of a threat by Washington in December to impose fresh sanctions on Iran for recent ballistic missile tests.
Together, the lifting of sanctions and the prisoner deal considerably reduce the hostility between Iran and USA that has shaped the Middle East since Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979.