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Iran Sanctions End

Summary: According to the IAEA, Iran has now satisfied the requirements for all sanctions to be removed against it, outlined in last year's P5+ 1 Nuclear Accord. What has Iran done exactly and how does this shape things for the future of the Middle East, Israel and the West?

Late Saturday evening, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that Tehran had met all necessary steps required in the P5+1 nuclear accord, signed last year.

This compliance will lift a list of crippling economic sanctions imposed by the international community and potentially brings Iran in from the cold and open for business again.

** See our original article on the Nuclear Deal here

Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, hailing the day as a "glorious victory", tweeted: "Implementing #JCPOA not a detriment to any country. Our friends are happy & our rivals need not worry. We're no threat to any nation/state."

Israel's Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, will take exception to that remark and has been a vociferous opponent of western concessions to a regime that has publicly stated its intent to destroy the Jewish state.

According to the IAEA document, confirmation was given of: the removal of the core of the Arak reactor, reduction of its uranium stockpile by 98%, (most of this was shipped to Russia, an ally in the conflict in Syria), limiting its level of uranium enrichment and the disabling of thousands of centrifuges, necessary in the enrichment process for military grade nuclear weapons.

The anticipated Implementation Day, brought removal of sanctions and gifts Tehran with a windfall of over $100 billion released from frozen assets, nuclear related sanctions lifted and the return of its oil to the global export market. With the the Iranian economy in a malaise for over a decade, many are hopeful for a financial upturn, stabilised commodities and reinvigorated consumer optimism.

A mutual prisoner swap between the US and Iran also happened at the same time, perhaps part of a side deal brokered or an expression of optimism both sides feel toward an new era of co-operation between Washington and Tehran.

Sanctions imposed by the West and others have crippled Iran's economy but with their lifting, businesses will be keen to exploit investment opportunities across Iran; banking, shipping, energy, transportation and importantly, the oil infrastructure. Iran is the fourth largest oil exporter in the world and now back online, businesses can look for income potential within Iran's petrochemical industry once more.

Gulf states did not welcome the news with the same enthusiasm, however. Financial markets in the region reacted pessimistically with more than $40 billion wiped off Middle East stock markets.

Another impact is that Iran will immediately dump half a million barrels of crude a day into an already saturated oil market. Doing so, will further drop the price of oil. Today, crude slumped to a low mark of $28 a barrel, a level not seen since September 2003. Saudi Arabia and the OPEC countries are already over-supplying and the swamping of the market further by Iranian oil will undoubtedly heighten uncertainties in the energy sectors. Cheaper gas at the pump but unsustainable in the long term.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was intended to curb any military dimension to Iran's nuclear policy although there is clear evidence Iran ran a nuclear research program with military dimensions for years. Tehran has long denied this but those who hold this bearish conviction, including me, are wary of Iran's true intent in the coming decade and beyond.

Iran has to stick to its pledges made within the JCPOA or face snap-back sanctions, but there still remain fears that in 10-15 years Iran may yet achieve full nuclear capability. Given their rhetoric against Israel, Gulf neighbours and global terror involvement, that is a realistic scenario.

Additionally, the West is increasingly war weary of Middle East conflict. That will probably preclude them from facing off against a much stronger and nuclear Iran in a decade if push came to shove to enforce sanctions.

For now, I remain highly cautious about Iran. I stated this previously in an article I wrote on last year's Nuclear Accord. There, I outlined the religious and messianic expectations that drive much of Iran's policy in the region and attitude to the West.

Furthermore, much of that leaning has to do with overthrowing Israel as a precursor to Islamic messianic fulfilment and the arrival of the Mahdi, Islam's awaited 12th Imam and main figurehead in a global Islamic Caliphate.

Regarding the lifting of sanctions, Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet, "Iran will now have more resources to divert to terrorism and its aggression in the region and around the world, and Israel is prepared to deal with any threat." Though his remarks will be dismissed by most, they are not without merit and express what many supporters of Israel discern lie behind Iran's current activities and long-term goals.

It is not purely economic or even military goals Iran seeks; its primary goals are religious and ideological and those are not displaced with sanctions eased or rapprochement with Washington or the EU. There are dimensions to what is being played out here that are beyond astute political observation; it is firstly a spiritual battle and requires keen attention and discernment of the prophetic Word, correctly identifying current events with Scripture on these points. Herein, lies the key to understanding the significance beyond the headlines.

I, like you, shall prayerfully watch developments from here onward, particularly as they relate to Israel and Iran's potential place in prophetic fulfilment. Through their proxy militias in Syria and Lebanon, Iran is alarmingly close to Israel's northern borders. Now, benefiting from a $100 billion bank deposit, Iran is likely to be more emboldened to continue its aspirations toward total hegemony in the region and, ultimately, toward Israel.

May the Lord, who neither slumbers nor sleeps, guard Israel and equally, bring the revelation of the true Messiah to the people of Iran.

About Ian Jupp

Ian Jupp is Executive Director of Return To Zion Ministries.
Ian's experience as a communicator, pastor, writer, teacher and his understanding of the Middle East, Israel, The Church and God's purposes, place him in a unique position to provide timely commentary on the urgent, prophetic events that are unfolding in our day.
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