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Britain, France, Germany ‘regret’ US decision to end sanctions waivers on Iran’s nuclear program

heavy-water reactor in Arak (Nanking2012/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Britain, France, and Germany have criticized a decision by the United States to end sanctions waivers for companies from countries that remain in the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

“We deeply regret the U.S. decision to end the three waivers covering key JCPOA nuclear projects in Iran,” a joint May 30 statement from the three European powers said.

The waivers were part of the landmark agreement signed with Tehran in 2015 that limited Iran’s nuclear activities in return for lifting crippling economic sanctions.

They allowed European, Chinese, and Russian companies to work on the conversion of a heavy-water reactor in Arak, a major industrial city in western Iran.

“These projects, endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, serve the nonproliferation interests of all and provide the international community with assurances of the exclusively peaceful and safe nature of Iranian nuclear activities.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on May 27 that Iran’s continued “nuclear brinkmanship” in breaching some of its nuclear commitments did not justify renewing the waivers.

“The regime’s nuclear extortion will lead to increased pressure on Iran and further isolate the regime from the international community,” he said.

Nonproliferation experts say that the waivers give international experts a valuable eye into Tehran’s nuclear activities and that its scientific research is for legitimate civilian purposes, such as medicine.

U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2018 and reimposed crushing sanctions on Tehran. In response, Iran has breached several provisions of the JCPOA at the fringes, saying that it can reverse them if the United States comes back into compliance.

Russia has also criticized the U.S. decision to end waivers, with Moscow claiming U.S. foreign policy was becoming “more dangerous and unpredictable”.

In Tehran, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi said the U.S. decision was a “flagrant violation of Resolution 2231 and the charter of the United Nations.”

He said Iran was ready to “take legal action and act appropriately” if the move harmed its nuclear rights, without elaborating.

Iranian Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behruz Kamalvandi said on May 28 that Washington’s “desperate” decision was aimed at distracting attention from its “continued defeats at the hands of Iran.”

“Under the nuclear deal, this decision has no effect in practice and is simply more hype from the Americans,” Kamalvandi was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

The Trump administration also provided a 90-day extension for the waiver covering international activity at the Bushehr nuclear power plant to ensure the safety of operations.

The international civilian-cooperation parts of the JCPOA were designed to make Iran’s nuclear program more transparent and less capable of producing weapons.

Iran hawks in Congress and the Trump administration say the civilian nuclear waivers allow Iran access to technology that could be used for nuclear weapons. But in extending the waivers in the past, the Trump administration implicitly recognized the nonproliferation benefits of the civilian projects.