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US renews waivers for Russian and Chinese companies at Iran’s nuclear sites

Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, held in Bushehr, Iran on 10 November 2019 [Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency]
Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, held in Bushehr, Iran on 10 November 2019 [Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency]

The United States has allowed Russian, Chinese and European companies to continue their work at Iranian nuclear sites, renewing an exemption it granted them from the sanctions imposed on Tehran.

The US state department said that the waivers were renewed for 60 days.

“As US President Donald Trump said earlier this year, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon,” the department’s spokesperson, Morgan Ortagus, said in a statement, adding that Washington would continue to “closely monitor all developments in Iran’s nuclear programme and can adjust these restrictions at any time.”

Reuters recently quoted official sources as saying that the decision to renew waivers to sanctions that bar non-US firms from dealing with Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation was expected on Monday.

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Ortagus pointed out that the move was opposed by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo but was later approved after the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said it would ease criticism Washington receives over the Iranian sanctions.

The US policy toward Tehran has faced increasing criticism from opponents and Iranian authorities who say the US sanctions are hampering the country’s efforts to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed 2,898 Iranians and infected over 44,000 others.

On Thursday, the US treasury imposed sanctions on 15 individuals and another five companies for alleged links to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its elite foreign paramilitary and espionage arm, the Quds Force.

It added that the companies were transferring lethal aid to Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, smuggling weapons to Iraq and Yemen, and selling US-blacklisted Iranian oil to the Syrian government, among other activities.

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On 8 May 2018, Washington withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran. Under the 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of sanctions that had crippled its economy.

As part of its “maximum pressure” campaign, the US has not only restored sanctions it had removed under the Iran nuclear deal, but has tightened them to try to force Iran to curb its nuclear, missile and regional activities.

However, the US sanctions waivers will allow non-proliferation work to continue at the Arak Heavy Water Reactor Facility, the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, the Tehran Research Reactor and other nuclear initiatives.

The Trump administration says the waivers would make the Iranian nuclear programme “less capable of producing weapons.”

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