What you need to know:
- Five Iranian nationals and a network of companies based in the United Arab Emirates and China were added to an American blacklist.
- Mr Rouhani staked his presidency on the nuclear talks, deepening the diplomacy which involved Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany after taking office in August 2013.
- Four Iranian-American citizens freed by Iran in a prisoner swap with the United States have left Tehran and are flying to Bern in Switzerland, Iranian state television reported Sunday.
The United States on Sunday announced new sanctions linked to Iran’s ballistic missile programme, just a day after sanctions targeting its nuclear programme were lifted.
Five Iranian nationals and a network of companies based in the United Arab Emirates and China were added to an American blacklist, the US Treasury Department announced in a statement.
The network “obfuscated the end user of sensitive goods for missile proliferation by using front companies in third countries to deceive foreign suppliers,” the statement said, adding that the five individuals had “worked to procure ballistic missile components for Iran.”
Adam J. Szubin, acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said that “Iran’s ballistic missile programme poses a significant threat to regional and global security, and it will continue to be subject to international sanctions.”
Meanwhile, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, on Sunday, said that sceptics who had warned a nuclear deal with world powers would not bring benefits to Iran “were all proven wrong”.
“Within a few hours” of the nuclear deal being implemented and sanctions lifted “1,000 lines of credit were opened by various banks,” Mr Rouhani told reporters in Tehran.
“This showed that those who used to say, ‘do not believe’ were mistaken,” he said, stressing the deal would now make it easier for Iranian businesses to operate after years of being frozen out of the international financial system.
“Today we are in an atmosphere where we can have political, economic and legal interaction with the world to the benefit of our national interests,” the president said.
“We believe in our national strength. We believe in our nation’s success,” he added.
OPEN TO DIPLOMACY
The remarks were a riposte to doubters who say that the diplomatic success of the nuclear deal will not translate into concrete economic benefits for Iran’s economy.
Mr Rouhani staked his presidency on the nuclear talks, deepening the diplomacy which involved Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany after taking office in August 2013.
Only last week he said Iranians should look forward to a “year of prosperity” after sanctions are lifted.
Mr Rouhani also hit out at Saudi Arabia’s criticism of the nuclear deal, citing an unnamed official who said the removal of sanctions was a bad development.
“On the day of implementation we saw one Saudi official express regret that Iran’s economic problems have been solved,” the Iranian president said.
“A neighbour would never behave this way. A Muslim would never act this way. A Muslim would not be upset over another Muslim’s comfort. Muslims are all brothers,” he said.
Following the Sunni kingdom’s execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr on January 2, Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran was ransacked — an act condemned by Mr Rouhani.
Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations a day later.
Rouhani said the door was still open to diplomacy but it would not stay open forever.
“What we want is to resolve regional issues through logic but at the same time, our people, our government will not accept non-diplomatic and inappropriate behaviour,” he said.
“If it’s necessary, a firm response will be given, but we hope... that they will move toward a direction which will be in the interest of the region and their own people.”
Meanwhile, four Iranian-American citizens freed by Iran in a prisoner swap with the United States have left Tehran and are flying to Bern in Switzerland, Iranian state television reported Sunday.
A senior US administration official confirmed that “our detained US citizens have been released and that those who wished to depart Iran have left.”
The Iranian report said those on board the “special Swiss plane” — Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post’s Tehran correspondent; Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor; former US Marine Amir Hekmati; and Nosratollah Khosravi — departed “on a special Swiss plane.”
The US official did not say who was aboard the plane, but the Washington Post said that those leaving included Rezaian, who has been held for nearly 18 months.
The Post reported that the flight out of Iran was delayed because Mr Rezaian’s mother Mary and wife Yeganeh, who also were on the airplane, initially did not appear on the flight manifest.
US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters travelling with him from Vienna to Washington that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif resolved the problem.
“Zarif had no question about it,” Kerry was quoted as saying.
“It was part of the agreement, it was clearly stated. The problem was, one of the guys on the ground, at a military base, didn’t have it on the manifest.”
Iran announced their release on Saturday, just hours before Tehran’s historic nuclear deal with world powers was implemented, in exchange for Washington pardoning seven Iranians accused of sanctions-busting.
State television said the seven Iranians — Nader Modanlou, Baharam Mechanic, Khosrow Afghahi, Arash Ghahreman, Tooraj Faridi, Nima Golestaneh, and Ali Saboonchi — “will be freed today.”
A fifth American was also released in a separate process, a US official has said.
Amir Hekmati, a former US Marine who faced a death sentence as an alleged spy, also was released, his family said, adding that they were officially told he was on a plane leaving Iran.
“It is hard to put into words what our family feels right now. But we remain in hopeful anticipation until Amir is in our arms.”
Washington Post publisher Frederick Ryan said in a statement: “We are relieved that this 545-day nightmare for Jason and his family is finally over.”
The 39-year-old Rezaian, a dual US-Iranian citizen born in California, was detained in Iran on July 22, 2014.
The Post statement said the paper was “enormously grateful to all who played a role” in securing Rezaian’s release, and the paper thanked those “around the world who have spoken out on Jason’s behalf and against the harsh confinement that was so wrongly imposed upon him.”