EghtesadOnline: The United States on Friday renewed several sanctions waivers that allow Russia, China and European states to engage in civilian nuclear cooperation with Iran, but revoked the other two as it heightens pressure on Tehran.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo extended the waivers, which were due to expire on Saturday, for 90 days, shorter than the 180 days that had been granted in the past. The waivers permit work at several Iranian nuclear sites to continue without US penalties.
Under the terms of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Russia, China and several European countries help maintain the facilities and are involved in converting equipment there to ensure Tehran’s nuclear program will remain peaceful, according to Financial Tribune.
Facilities included in the waiver extensions include the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, the Fordow enrichment facility, the Arak nuclear complex and Tehran Research Reactor, the US State Department said, AP reported.
However, the Bushehr waiver is being tightened so that any assistance to expand the plant could incur sanctions.
The other two waivers—one that allowed Iran to store excess heavy water produced in the uranium enrichment process in Oman and one that allowed Iran to swap enriched uranium for raw yellowcake with Russia—were not renewed, the department said.
Bid to Block Enrichment
That decision is aimed at forcing Iran to stop enriching uranium, something it was allowed to do up to certain limits under the nuclear deal, it said. Highly enriched uranium can be used to fuel a nuclear weapon.
Tehran stresses that its nuclear activities have no military aspects and are only for civilian uses.
“Iran must stop all proliferation-sensitive activities, including uranium enrichment, and we will not accept actions that support the continuation of such enrichment,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
“The United States will continue to impose maximum pressure on [Iran] and remains committed to denying Iran any pathway to a nuclear weapon,” she contended.
President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal last year, reimposed sanctions that had been eased in November and has steadily ramped up pressure on Iran in the months since.
Last month, his administration announced it would no longer renew sanctions exemptions that allowed China, India, Japan, Turkey and South Korea to continue importing Iranian oil. Those waivers expired on Friday, although it was not immediately clear whether the US would impose sanctions on some or all of those countries if they take delivery of previously purchased oil.
Some hardliners on Iran in Congress and outside the administration have called for the elimination of all sanctions waivers, including for civilian nuclear cooperation, in order for the administration to make good on its “maximum pressure” campaign.
Supporters of the Iran deal say the cooperation waivers are important to maintain because they give the outside world additional eyes on what Iran is doing in its nuclear facilities.
Majlis Mulling Response
An Iranian lawmaker condemned the US measure to impose new limits on Iran’s nuclear activities and said the members of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission plan to discuss the issue on Sunday.
Mojtaba Zolnour told Tasnim News Agency that the parliamentary panel will hold discussions on Washington’s move to scrap waivers that allow Tehran to receive international assistance to advance its peaceful nuclear work.
He emphasized that the move is definitely a violation of the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“We will take any action that JCPOA has permitted Iran [to counter the US measure],” the parliamentarian declared.