Nightly News   |  November 24, 2013

What the Iran nuclear deal really means

Iran’s nuclear program is frozen for six months and it will roll back in some key areas. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>> good evening. with an historic multinational agreement, the united states and iran today stepped away from the edge after a long and dangerous game of brinkmanship over iran 's nuclear ambitions. tonight not everyone is feeling safer or breathing easier. the deal announce in the geneva early sunday requires iran to halt the production of high grade uranium. the stuff essential to making a nuclear weapon in exchange for the easing of nuclear sanctions. while supporters of the deal say it removes the threat of armed conflict in the region, there are some pretty loud and influential voices from washington to the middle east that are calling this agreement an historic mistake. our team is in place to cover all sides. we begin with our chief foreign affairs correspondent, andrea mitchell . good evening.

>> good evening. the administration hopes this is a landmark agreement that will lead to a more sweeping deal six months from now but it is already being criticized by israel and saudi arabia along with some of the president's closest allies on capitol hill . the secretary of state arriving in london today only hours after round-the-clock talks finally produced a deal between the world powers and iran . at 3:00 in the morning in geneva .

>> now really hard part begins. that is the effort to get the comprehensive agreement which will require enormous steps in terms of verification, transparency, and accountability.

>> reporter: after being briefed, the president, in an unusual late saturday night speech, defended testing iran 's intentions.

>> the bur is on iran to prove to the world that its nuclear program will be exclusively for peaceful purposes.

>> reporter: the agreement freezes iran's nuclear program for six months and rolls it back in key areas. iran can still enrich uranium but at levels well below what would be needed to produce a weapon. iran would reduce its highly enriched stockpile, stopping centrifuges, stop building a plutonium reactionor and allow daily inspections. in return the white house gets what it calls modest sanctions releex $6 to $7 billion from some of its accounts. the sanctions barring iran from international banking and the embargo on its oil exports continue for now but the agreement has united arab states like saudi arabia and israel who say iran cannot be trusted. prime minister netanyahu condemned the deal.

>> this agreement has made the world a much more dangerous place.

>> reporter: president obama called netanyahu today but the two leaders disagree on the threat and the goal. obama pledges to stop iran from getting a nuclear weapon . netanyahu wants to stop iran from even having the capability to produce one and many in congress agree with israel .

>> we're accepting a signal to iran that they can continue to go ahead and by talking and acting like they have good will, can get away with at least nuclear weapon production capability.

>> reporter: the geneva agreement came together only two months after president obama first talked to iran 's president rouhani on the phone. but in fact top u.s. officials have been meeting secretly with iran for a year in the persian gulf country of oman laying the groundwork.

>> if this interim deal does ultimately translate into a comprehensive deal that eliminates the iranian nuclear program to the middle east , that's an enormous victory for america's global victory.

>> reporter: president obama tried to reassure israel 's leader that he will be consulted on every aspect of any final deal with iran but israel 's worry is that the president is too eager for an agreement and not driving a hard enough bargain with tehran.