The nuclear deal struck by Iran and six world powers led by the United States has drawn criticism from evangelicals for its potential ill effects on Israel and persecuted Christians in the Persian nation.
The American Center for Law and Justice lamented that the deal, which was announced today (July 14) in Vienna following 20 months of negotiations, apparently does not include the release of American pastor Saeed Abedini from an Iranian prison.
Johnny Hunt, a former Southern Baptist Convention president who has led First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., to do extensive mission work in Iran, said the Obama administration’s willingness to negotiate with Iranian leaders likely encourages the regime to continue persecuting Christians and threatening Israel.
“I fear for Israel and other Middle Eastern countries in light of Iran’s hatred of Israel along with their many threats,” Hunt told Baptist Press in written comments. “I find it so difficult for us as a nation to trust nations that are publicly known for their religious persecution. The lack of accountability of Iran in light of all their inconsistencies with the United Nations leads me to believe that [America’s diplomatic engagement with Iran poses] an even greater risk to Iran’s growing Christian Underground Church.”
Hunt added, “Every concerned citizen should be asking, ‘What has changed in Iran’s behavior that has led us to believe they can be trusted in a nuclear deal?'”
According to The New York Times, the deal requires Iran to maintain a 98-percent reduced stockpile of low enriched uranium for the next 15 years, reduce by two-thirds the number of centrifuges spinning at the nation’s primary enrichment center and continue to limit its acquisition of conventional weapons among other provisions.
In exchange, the U.S. and the international community will lift oil and financial sanctions on Iran — a move expected to generate between $300 to $400 billion for Iran’s economy, according to the Heritage Foundation, a think tank that promotes traditional values.
President Obama celebrated the deal in a White House address, saying without the accord Iran and its neighbors would be more likely to pursue a nuclear arms race.
“This deal is not built on trust. It is built on verification,” Obama said according to a transcript of his remarks published by the Associated Press. “Inspectors will have 24/7 access to Iran’s nuclear facilities. [They] will have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, its uranium mines and mills, its conversion facility and its centrifuge manufacturing and storage facilities.
“This ensures that Iran will not be able to divert materials from known facilities to covert ones,” Obama said. “Some of these transparency measures will be in place for 25 years.”
Republicans in Congress expressed skepticism regarding the deal as did Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Congress will have 60 days to review the deal and either approve or disapprove of it. Obama said he will veto “any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal.”
The Times said “Obama’s chances of ultimately prevailing are considered high.”
Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he questions “whether the deal actually meets the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Sen. James Lankford, a Southern Baptist and Oklahoma Republican, said Iran remains “the world’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism.” Iran’s leadership, he said, “is a threat to its neighbors and the world, therefore we should closely analyze and debate this deal before any sanctions relief occurs.”
Netanyahu called the deal a “historic mistake,” according to the Jerusalem Post. The agreement will result in “hundreds of billions of dollars” pouring into Iran that can be used to fund terrorism and aggression toward neighboring states, Netanyahu said.
“It is impossible to prevent an agreement when the negotiators are willing to make more and more concessions to those who chant ‘Death to America’ even during the negotiations,” Netanyahu said in an apparent reference to U.S. negotiators.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press