Trump administration ends waivers in Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran

Trump administration ends waivers in Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran
© Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoIran releases photo of damaged nuclear fuel production site: report To support Hong Kong's freedom, remember America's revolution Senate passes sanctions bill targeting China over Hong Kong law MORE on Wednesday announced that the U.S. would end the last remaining sanctions waivers enshrined in the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal, eliminating key provisions meant to encourage the transition of Tehran’s nuclear ambitions to civilian use.

The waivers had previously allowed European, Chinese and Russian companies to do work at Iranian nuclear facilities without risking U.S. sanctions.

Projects were meant to include repurposing nuclear sites for peaceful means and improving infrastructure to ensure compliance with safety regulations.

Yet Trump administration officials argue it allowed for Tehran to continue its efforts to pursue a nuclear weapon.

“Today, I am ending the sanctions waiver for JCPOA-related projects in Iran, effective in 60 days,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “Iran’s continued nuclear escalation makes clear this cooperation must end. Further attempts at nuclear extortion will only bring greater pressure on the regime.”

The waivers have been renewed every 60 days since President TrumpDonald John TrumpSecret Service members who helped organize Pence Arizona trip test positive for COVID-19: report Trump administration planning pandemic office at the State Department: report Iran releases photo of damaged nuclear fuel production site: report MORE in 2018 pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran nuclear deal negotiated in 2015 under the direction of President Obama.

Since pulling out of the deal, the U.S. has reimposed punishing sanctions on Iran as part of its “maximum pressure campaign” to block leaders in Tehran from investing in building up its nuclear capabilities and financing armed groups throughout the Middle East.

ADVERTISEMENT
But it has allowed waivers for certain countries that engaged with Tehran under the provisions of the deal, including the winding down of waivers that let countries import Iranian oil.

Iran has reacted to U.S. sanctions in part by increasing its uranium enrichment beyond the measures permitted by the deal, despite continued participation by the other signatories, including the U.K., France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union.

The Trump administration last renewed the waivers on March 30 and their expiration is approaching at the end of the month.

ADVERTISEMENT
The waivers provided by the U.S. relate to projects at Iran’s Arak heavy water research reactor, regulation of enriched uranium at the Tehran Research Reactor and the disposal of spent and scrap research reactor fuel out of Iran. The U.S. will give companies working at these sites 60 days to come into compliance before risking sanctions.

Yet Pompeo provided a separate waiver for the Bushehr nuclear power plant “to ensure safety of operations” and will last for 90 days.

“We will continue to closely monitor all developments in Iran’s nuclear program and can modify this waiver at any time,” Pompeo said in a statement released by the State Department.

The secretary also said the U.S. will also impose sanctions on two Iranian scientists, Majid Agha’i and Amjad Sazgar, who the secretary said are leaders of Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.  

“Iran’s scientists need to make a choice: pursue peaceful work outside of the proliferation realm, or risk being sanctioned,” the secretary wrote on Twitter.

Senator Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump administration grants funding extension for Texas testing sites Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down GOP lawmakers join social media app billed as alternative to Big Tech MORE (R-Texas) on Wednesday applauded the move by the Trump administration, calling it a "critical step toward tearing up the catastrophic Obama-Iran nuclear deal once and for all."

Cruz criticized Tehran as exploiting the civil nuclear waivers to build up Iran's nuclear programs and threaten the security of the U.S. and allies. The Texas senator said the U.S. should invoke the snapback mechanism to end the remaining allowances for Tehran, including the expiration of the arms embargo.

"Enough was enough. Now it's time for the U.S. to finally and irreversibly end what remains of the deal and the benefits that Iran gets from it by invoking the sanctions snapback described in the deal's United Nations resolution," Cruz said in a statement. "Unless we do so the U.N. arms embargo and ballistic missile bans will inevitably expire, allowing Russia and China to start selling billions of dollars of weapons to Iran."

The latest moves by the U.S. are occurring as the Trump administration has sought to defend its continued participation in the Iran nuclear — deal despite withdrawing in 2018 — in an effort to prevent the expiration of an arms embargo in October.

The justification is seen as setting up the chance for the U.S. to call for a snapback on all sanctions on Tehran, and Pompeo said last month the U.S. doesn’t “have to declare ourselves a participant.”

“We are going to make sure that come October of this year, the Iranians aren’t able to buy conventional weapons that they would be given what President Obama and Vice President Biden delivered to the world in that terrible deal,” the secretary said in a briefing with reporters at the time.