By Mick Krever, CNN
The implementation of an interim deal with Iran is a “positive” and “concrete” step towards curbing that country’s nuclear program, U.S. Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
The agreement, which was negotiated late last year in Geneva, will come in effect on January 20; and the U.S. Treasury was a major player in negotiating it.
The idea behind the deal is to create an amenable environment, for six months, during which time Iran and world powers can try to agree on a more comprehensive, permanent accord.
So just what is in the deal?
In broad strokes, Iran will limit its enrichment to only low purity uranium. In exchange it will get “quite limited” sanctions relief worth about $6 billion or $7 billion dollars, Cohen said.
Cohen said that the majority of the relief will come in the form of increased access to revenue the country earns abroad (for example from its limited oil exports) and more imports of parts for the Iranian auto industry.”
And, he emphasized, the U.S. can take away that relief at a moment’s notice.
“If Iran does not comply with the commitments that it’s made in this new deal, all of these sanctions can be immediately reinstated. We will stop the flow of funds that Iran will have access to under this agreement, and we will work with our Congress if Iran fails to fulfill its commitments under this agreement, to put into effect even more stringent sanctions.”
For the time being, the U.S. Congress may be more of a headache than an ally for the Obama Administration.
A bipartisan proposal that would impose new sanctions - but put off implementing them to allow time for negotiations to continue - has the support of 59 Senators so far, a senior Senate aide told CNN last week.
President Obama vowed to veto any new sanctions in a statement released Sunday, saying that “imposing additional sanctions now will only risk derailing our efforts to resolve this issue peacefully.”
“I don’t think anybody wants to go there,” Cohen said, adding that the White House had worked very closely with Congress on Iran.
The sanctions have been “very, very valuable” in getting Iran to the negotiating table, he said, “now is the time to see if it’s possible to negotiate a comprehensive resolution to the concerns with Iran’s nuclear program.”
During negotiation, he said, the sanctions currently in place will continue to be “vigorously” enforced.
Iran will continue to lose $5 billion a month in oil revenue, he said, keeping out of reach most of the revenue it gets from the oil it does sell, and make doing business with Iran difficult by cutting its banks off from the international financial sector.
Whether the interim deal will lead to a comprehensive agreement, he said, is in the “Iranians’ hands.”
“If they’re prepared to take the steps necessary to prove that their nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes and we can reach a deal that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, that’s what we’re looking to achieve.”
CNN’s Tom Cohen contributed to this report.