The Obama administration and the rest of the signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have approved a shipment of 130 tons of natural uranium from Russia to Iran, rewarding the Islamic Republic for shipping 44 tons of heavy water it sent to Russia after exceeding the limit it could legally produce under the deal. Experts have told US media outlets the amount of uranium to be shipped is enough to produce 10 nuclear bombs.
The announcement of the new shipment is seen as one more last-minute jab from the Obama White House at incoming President Trump, who probably would have vetoed the shipment, even though, according to US diplomats speaking to the Associated Press and Fox News, the amount of uranium is within what’s allowable under the 2015 deal. Republican lawmakers have almost uniformly opposed that nuclear deal, arguing it awarded Iran too many concessions. The same lawmakers – which included the current Democratic Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (NY) – also argued the deal does not provide reliable verifications of Iran’s compliance.
Last month the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned that at current production levels Iran is going to exceed its cap on low-enriched uranium. Also, just a few days before the IAEA sounded the alarm, President Hassan Rouhani ordered Iran’s nuclear agency to develop nuclear engines that would use uranium enriched to 20 percent – a clear violation of the 2015 deal allowing Iran to enrich only to 3.67 percent.
In late December 2016, the IAEA published documents showing Iran was given exemptions allowing it to stockpile uranium in excess of the 300 kilogram limit set by the nuclear deal. The agreements had been kept secret for almost a year, and were publicized only because the Trump administration indicated it was planning to go public with them.
But when, on September 1, 2016, the Institute for Science and International Security announced that the US and its co-signatories were considering awarding Iran further exemptions to Iran’s cap of 300 kg of low enriched uranium, State Dept. Spokesperson John Kirby denied the report, saying, “Well, we’ve read the report. I’ve looked at it myself. What I can tell you is that Iran’s nuclear commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) have not changed. There’s been no moving of the goal post, as it were.”