US Renews Nuclear Waivers Vital to Iran Deal Survival

John Bolton and his hawkish team in the Trump administration have reportedly failed to convince the president to stop issuing waivers for Iran’s nuclear cooperation with the world, which could practically kill the JCPOA and force Iran into leaving it.

Experts at think tanks close to US President Donald Trump first floated the idea of revoking waivers for international cooperation with Iran’s civilian nuclear program.

The idea soon reached the White House. Around a week ago, CNN quoted two informed sources as saying that Trump and his advisors would review the issue of lifting waivers for nuclear sanctions on Iran.

A state official and another informed source told CNN that authorities in the Trump administration had, in recent weeks, held meetings to study the rescission of all or some of the waivers, but that no decisions were made yet.

US National Security Advisor John Bolton was the main supporter of the revocation of waivers. Nevertheless, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and some officials at the United States’ departments of state and treasury were against the removal of sanctions exemptions, arguing that the move would impede the monitoring of Tehran’s nuclear program.

Now, a statement issued on Friday by the US State Department shows Pompeo and his team have managed to convince Trump to continue issuing the key waivers despite efforts by Bolton.

The three key waivers, which were due to expire Saturday, are extended for 90 days, and will allow European allies, Russia and China to cooperate with the Islamic Republic on civil nuclear program.

The waiver extensions pertain to the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the Fordow enrichment facility, the Arak nuclear complex and the Tehran Research Reactor, a senior US official said, on condition of anonymity.

Bolton and his associates were seeking to have permits for international cooperation at Iran’s Fordo and Arak nuclear facilities abrogated in order to prepare the ground for making new claims against Iran.

Should other members of the Iran nuclear deal and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sever their connection with Fordo and Arak installations, it is obvious that radicals in Washington would say Iran has been involved in illegal nuclear activities in the above-mentioned facilities.

A former director for arms control and nonproliferation at the US National Security Council in the Trump administration believes those advocating the revocation of nuclear waivers want to undermine the Iran nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and force Iran to withdraw from it. According to the ex-official, it seems supporters of the idea would like to urge Iran to pull out of the nuclear deal and make it difficult for the future administration to return to the agreement.

If Bolton, as the key person prodding Trump into repealing the waivers, could see his dream come true and waivers for nuclear sanctions on Iran were revoked, it would lead to harmful consequences with regards to cooperation in the field of research and development between Iran and leading countries in the nuclear industry.

In fact, the revocation of waivers would have sounded the death knell for the last advantage and achievement that Iran had gained from joining the Additional Protocol and allowing the IAEA to conduct overarching inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities. If that happened, Iran was likely to withdraw from the JCPOA and resume its nuclear work without compliance with the considerations and conditions stipulated in the JCPOA.

The first consequence of the US government’s refusal to renew the waivers would be Iran and North Korea resuming nuclear cooperation. Accordingly, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s upcoming trip to North Korea would be a wake-up call for Bolton and other radicals advocating the annulment of waivers related to scientific and technological cooperation on nuclear activities, so much so that the forthcoming visit could be regarded as a prelude to Iran’s pullout from the JCPOA.

However, the Trump administration’s decision to renew those waivers has for now frustrated Bolton and other warmongers in the US and the Middle East.

With the JCPOA continuing to survive on a wheelchair, and despite Iran’s failure to reap the economic benefits of the agreement due to the US sanctions, the extension of nuclear waivers will maintain the international community’s watch over the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea, and thus prevent such warmongers as Bolton from fabricating pretexts for new wars.

New Sanctions on Uranium Exports

Despite the extension of nuclear waivers, Trump has imposed sanctions on Iran’s export of enriched uranium.

“Any involvement in transferring enriched uranium out of Iran in exchange for natural uranium will now be exposed to sanctions. The United States has been clear that Iran must stop all proliferation-sensitive activities, including uranium enrichment, and we will not accept actions that support the continuation of such enrichment,” the State Department announced in its statement.

Under Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Tehran is limited to keeping 300 kilograms of uranium enriched up to 3.67 percent. As part of the JCPOA, Iran is allowed to sell any enriched uranium above that threshold on international markets in exchange for natural uranium, with Russia a key player.

   
   

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