The move came after the international nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, said Iran had complied with a deal designed to prevent it developing nuclear weapons.
Most Western governments hailed the move but Israel accused Tehran of still seeking to build a nuclear bomb.
Four US prisoners freed by Iran on Saturday have now left the country.
Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, arrested in 2014 and jailed in November for espionage, left on a plane along with three other Iranian-American prisoners as part of a swap with Washington, the paper said.
“Without an appropriate reaction to every violation, Iran will realise it can continue to develop nuclear weapons, destabilise the region and spread terror,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
US Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said the Obama administration had moved to lift economic sanctions “on the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism”.
Sanctions on Iran
Nuclear sanctions have been in place since 2006, on top of other sanctions stretching back decades:
- The economic sanctions being lifted now were imposed progressively by the US, EU and UN in response to Iran’s nuclear programme
- The EU is lifting in full restrictions on trade, shipping and insurance
- The US is suspending, not terminating, its nuclear-related sanctions; crucially, Iran can now reconnect to the global banking system
- The UN is lifting sanctions related to defence and nuclear technology sales, as well as an asset freeze on key individuals and companies
- Non-nuclear US economic sanctions remain in place, notably the ban on US citizens and companies trading with Iran, and US and EU sanctions on Iranians accused of sponsoring terrorism remain in place
A flurry of Iranian economic activity is anticipated:
- Nearly $100bn (£70bn) of Iranian assets are being unlocked
- Iran is expected to increase its daily export of 1.1m barrels of crude oil by 500,000 shortly, and a further 500,000 thereafter
- Iran is reportedly poised to buy 114 new passenger planes from the Airbus consortium