After receiving confirmation from the IAEA that Iran has completed the required steps in a deal to restrict its nuclear program, President Obama signed an executive order Saturday striking down 20-years of sanctions against Iran for pursuing a nuclear weapons program. The United States agreed to lift the sanctions as part of an international agreement requiring Iran to mothball its nuclear capabilities for a decade or more.
The most significant effect of the executive order is to free up Iranian assets held in the international financial system, estimated to be worth between $50 billion and $150 billion. Obama administration officials have said they believe the value is on the lower end of that spectrum, because of Iran’s international debts and the amount of currency it needs to keep in foreign reserves. Most of the sanctions relief applies to what are known as secondary sanctions — those against non-U.S. citizens doing business with Iran. Primary sanctions — those against U.S. citizens — remain in place.
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