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Why the U.S. Must Stop Issuing Civil-Nuclear Waivers

Sen. Cruz leads bicameral legislation to revoke civil-nuclear waivers established by the catastrophic Obama-Iran nuclear deal and issued by the Trump administration

November 18, 2019

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202-228-7561

WASHIGNTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), introduced a bill last week that would require the administration to revoke civil nuclear waivers for projects established under the catastrophic Obama-Iran nuclear deal that have allowed Iran to continue building up its nuclear program.

As Sen. Cruz said last week:

"Iran is exploiting the civil-nuclear waivers from the Obama-Iran deal, which the Trump administration has continued to issue, to build up their nuclear program and buy time until the nuclear deal expires, leaving them with a full-blown unlimited civilian nuclear program. The Trump administration has continued to issue these waivers despite a continuing campaign of nuclear escalation and extortion by Iran. Just this month, Iran began injecting uranium gas into centrifuges at the Fordow nuclear bunker, a nuclear weapons facility they dug out of the side of a mountain. Enough is enough. Now is the time to end the deal once and for all. I urge Congress to expeditiously take up our legislation, end these waivers, and hold Iran accountable."

What are the waivers?

The catastrophic Obama-Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), entangles the international community with Iran's nuclear program through a range of cooperative nuclear projects. Normally that cooperation would trigger U.S. sanctions, and more specifically the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act (IFCA), but the Obama and Trump administrations have issued civil-nuclear waivers to allow it.

In October, the Trump administration renewed waivers for three specific projects: centrifuge work at the Fordow facility, work at the Arak heavy water reactor, and the transfer into Iran of highly enriched uranium.

Why should the waivers be revoked?

In general, these waivers keep the nuclear deal alive and give the Iranians hope they can wait out the Trump administration. In other words, the waivers diminish Iran's incentive to negotiate a new deal.

More importantly, Iran is getting nuclear concessions while violating multiple nuclear provisions of the JCPOA, including:
1. Violating permitted limits on the amounts, levels, and locations of enrichment, and on the sophistication of centrifuges, and;
2. Keeping nuclear weapons blueprints and undeclared nuclear materials hidden from inspectors.

More specifically, each individual project is unjustifiable and dangerous, in part because each gives Iran cover to keep facilities open and engage in illicit activities.

Fordow: Fordow is an underground enrichment facility built exclusively to as a nuclear weapons facility. The Fordow JCPOA project was supposed to convert the entire facility into a "nuclear, physics, and technology centre," where the centrifuges had been rendered unsuitable for uranium enrichment, in exchange for letting Iran keep it open. But Iran skated on the obligation to fully convert the facility and earlier this month injected uranium into centrifuges there.

Arak: The Arak reactor is a heavy water reactor, which can make enough plutonium for one nuclear weapon per year. The Arak JCPOA project was supposed to redesign the reactor to make it less dangerous. 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.

Highly Enriched Uranium: The JCPOA allows Iran to import highly enriched uranium for the Tehran Research Reactor, on the premise that Iran is entitled to the benefits of civil-nuclear technology. But the NPT reserves civil-nuclear benefits to members in good standing, and the Trump administration's Special Representative for Nuclear Nonproliferation confirmed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in May of this year that "Iran's standing as a non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the NPT cannot be described as ‘good.'"

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