GOP Leaders Call on Trump to Revoke Iran’s Nuke Waivers, Reimpose International Sanctions

January 7, 2020 Updated: January 7, 2020
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WASHINGTON—Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ted Cruz of Texas joined with Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) in calling for President Donald Trump to drop waivers on domestic Iranian power projects under the U.S. nuclear deal with Iran and to reimpose tough international sanctions against Tehran.

“On Sunday, Iran backed out of catastrophic Obama-Iran nuclear deal, which they’ve long exploited to build up their nuclear facilities,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement released Jan. 6.

“There are no more pretenses. Iran has made it very clear that they are just trying to wait out the Trump administration and among other things secure an end to the arms embargo, which is set to expire in October 2020. The United States gains nothing by pretending otherwise,” they said in the statement.

Cruz and Graham are members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while Cheney is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Referring to the deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State John Kerry, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the legislators pointed to two actions they believe Trump should take as soon as possible:

“First, President Trump should immediately end all civil-nuclear waivers. Second, he should order our diplomats to invoke the United Nations snapback to restore international sanctions and restrictions on Iran.”

The “snapback” sanctions are those that were in place through the United Nations when the JCPOA was signed in 2015. They were aimed at Iran’s nuclear research and development efforts.

The JCPOA included a provision that would renew the sanctions in the event that Iran violated the agreement and at least one of the other nations that entered the deal objected. Besides the United States, the signers included Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China.

The project waivers are crucial to Iran’s ability to continue development on three projects.

The Fordow Project is an underground enrichment facility that’s clearly intended for use as a nuclear weapons resource, in violation of the JCPOA, according to the three legislators.

Under the JCPOA, Iran negotiators agreed that the project would be converted to a research center, for which its centrifuges used in uranium enrichment would no longer be useful.

“Iran skated on the obligation to fully convert the facility and earlier this month injected uranium into centrifuges there,” the three said in a Nov. 18, 2019, statement.

The Arak Reactor is a heavy-water reactor capable of making enough plutonium to complete at least one nuclear weapon annually. Under the JCPOA, Iran said it would redesign the reactor to reduce its capabilities.

“However, Iran’s nuclear chief bragged the project can be easily reversed because Iran secretly imported illicit parts, allowing them to quickly reverse all the changes,” the legislators said last year.

The Tehran Research Reactor is allowed under the JCPOA to use imported highly enriched uranium in activities devoted solely to civil nuclear power technology development, as defined under the international nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

But the three legislators pointed out in their November 2019 statement that the Trump administration confirmed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in May 2018 that “Iran’s standing as a non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the NPT cannot be described as ‘good.'”

Both the Obama and Trump administrations issued waivers covering the three projects following the adoption of the JCPOA. Trump didn’t remove the waivers, however, after announcing in 2018 that the U.S. no longer recognizes the JCPOA.

Cruz, Graham, and Cheney introduced anti-waiver bills in November 2019.

“The U.S. must revoke waivers for ‘civil nuclear’ projects established by President Obama’s nuclear deal. These waivers legitimize Iran’s illicit nuclear infrastructure-even as the regime continues on a path of nuclear escalation at sites like the Fordow bunker, where Iran recently resumed uranium enrichment,” Cheney said in November.

Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc