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US extends sanctions waivers on nuclear cooperation with Iran

The United States has once again waived its sanctions on nuclear cooperation with Iran, allowing firms of the remaining signatories to a 2015 nuclear deal to continue working on Iranian nuclear facilities.

The US State Department said in a statement on Monday that the Russian, Chinese, and European companies could continue their work at Iranian nuclear facilities without drawing American penalties.

The measure will offer 60 days of immunity from sanctions to several non-proliferation projects to continue at the Arak heavy-water research reactor, the Bushehr nuclear power plant and the Tehran Research Reactor, among other Iranian nuclear facilities.

The US State Department last extended the sanctions waivers in January.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement that “Iran’s continued expansion of nuclear activities is unacceptable,” claiming that Tehran’s nuclear development “is among the greatest threats to international peace and security.”

She repeated Washington’s claims that Iran was pursuing military objectives in its nuclear program, saying, “We will continue to closely monitor all developments in Iran’s nuclear program and can adjust these restrictions at any time.”

The decision to extend the waivers comes in defiance of calls by hawkish elements in Congress, who claim that the exemptions give Iran access to technology that could be used for weapons.

They have been pressing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to revoke all the waivers. Pompeo canceled the Fordow waiver in mid-December.

Iran has always said that its nuclear program is exclusively civilian and void of any military dimensions, as has been verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency on multiple occasions.

The extension comes amid growing global pressure on the US to lift the sanction it has re-imposed on Iran as the country battles a deadly coronavirus pandemic.

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