Biden Admin Won't Block $10 Billion for Russian Nuclear Work in Iran, Blinken Says

May 2, 2022

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told lawmakers late last week that the United States will not stop Russia from cashing in on a $10 billion contract to build out portions of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

Blinken, in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, confirmed for the first time publicly that the Biden administration will not stand in the way of Russia-Iran nuclear cooperation. Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) asked Blinken to provide assurances that sanctions on both Iran and Russia remain in place as long as Moscow continues its unprovoked war in Ukraine.

Blinken said any sanctions lifted as part of a new nuclear deal will be separate from the United States' current pressure campaign on Russia, meaning that the $10 billion contract between Tehran and Moscow will be permitted to go through.

"The actions that Russia would take pursuant to the agreement, if there is a return to the agreement, would not be in contravention of the sanctions imposed on Russia for its actions in Ukraine," Blinken said.

As part of the ongoing negotiations with Iran on a revamped nuclear deal—which are being led by Russia on the United States' behalf—the Biden administration committed to waive sanctions preventing Tehran from paying Moscow at least $10 billion to construct nuclear reactors in the country. Republican lawmakers say the concession undermines the international community’s efforts to isolate Russia in response to its ongoing war in Ukraine.

Issa, in comment to the Free Beacon following Blinken’s testimony, said, "The Biden administration is so desperate for a deal with Iran they’ll broker a $10 billion payoff to Russia and waive their own sanctions to make it happen."

The Biden administration’s reliance on Russia to conduct diplomacy with Iran has rankled Republican foreign policy leaders in Congress who want to see Moscow fully iced out from the international community for its war crimes in Ukraine.

Rosatom, a top Russian state-controlled energy firm, is poised to construct several nuclear projects for Iran that were sanctioned by the Trump administration. The United States waived sanctions on these projects earlier this year as part of a series of concessions meant to entice Iran back into a nuclear agreement.

The State Department has made clear that it will not move to sanction these projects as part of a new nuclear deal.

"We, of course, would not sanction Russian participation in nuclear projects that are part of resuming full implementation of the JCPOA," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in March.