US imposes additional sanctions on Iran peaceful nuclear program

The US State Department announced that the Trump administration will sanction any assistance to expand Iran’s nuclear power plant at Bushehr and ban exports of heavy water and any further uranium enrichment.

Iran Press/America: The Bushehr nuclear power plant was built by Russia. Moscow and Tehran have agreed on constructing the second and third energy units at the site.

In November 2018, after Washington had restored its unilateral restrictive measures against Iran’s energy sector, the State Department admitted that this cooperation could be targeted by US punitive steps, Iran Press reported.

The sanctions will apply starting Saturday, May 4, according to a statement by State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus, according to the media.

“Iran must stop all proliferation-sensitive activities, including uranium enrichment,” Ortagus said, adding the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded Iran “never pursue plutonium reprocessing.”

The measures aim to deny Iran “any pathway to a nuclear weapon,” Pompeo claimed.

Provisions for exporting excess heavy water, limited uranium enrichment and expanding the civilian power plant in Bushehr were included in the 2015 nuclear deal – also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)– signed by Iran, the US, China and four European nuclear states.

The US unilaterally pulled out of the JCPOA, in May 2018, and reintroduced nuclear sanctions against Tehran in November.

However, other participants of the deal did not back the US move and remained committed to the Iran nuclear deal. In its turn, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) highlights in its report that Iran observes its commitments under the agreement and its activity is subject to thorough checks.

Pompeo’s announcement makes it clear that the US still expects Iran to abide by the deal, even though the US does not.

Sanction waivers on shipping the surplus heavy water to Oman and exporting enriched uranium over the 300-kilogram limit were key waivers included in the JCPOA. With them revoked, Iran will have trouble disposing of enriched uranium.

“Revoking these waivers, you’re basically almost preventing the other JCPOA parties from providing the peaceful nuclear technical assistance that is the basis of Iran’s nuclear commitments,” Kenneth Katzman, an Iran expert at the Congressional Research Service, told Bloomberg on Friday.

Five other JCPOA sanction waivers, which were expiring Saturday, were renewed for 45 to 90 days, instead of the customary 180. They apply to Iran's nuclear facilities in Arak, Fordow and Tehran.

It is the third punitive action taken against Iran in as many weeks. Last week, it said it would grant no more sanctions waivers for countries buying Iranian oil, accelerating its plan to push Iran’s oil exports to zero. The Trump administration also took the unprecedented step of designating Iran’s elite Islamic Revolution Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.

The Trump administration has imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran’s oil industry, with the intent to reduce exports to zero, and declared the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) a “terrorist organization,” ratcheting up tensions with Tehran forty years after the Islamic revolution overthrew the US-backed monarchy. 104/211/213

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