Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) is accusing multiple senior Trump administration officials in both the Treasury and State Departments of actively working behind President Donald Trump's back to save the Iran nuclear deal and continue providing Tehran with waivers permitting the regime to conduct sensitive nuclear work at a military site that houses Iran's nuclear weapons program.
In reaction to reports that the State Department will renew a series of controversial sanctions waivers that have permitted Iran to continue conducting nuclear work, including at a military bunker dug into the side of mountain, Cruz accused "deep state" officials operating at the State and Treasury Departments of actively working to undermine the administration's so-called "maximum pressure" campaign on Iran.
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"If these reports are indeed accurate, then it is a temporary victory for the deep state staffers at Treasury and State who continue working tirelessly to preserve the Obama Iran deal rather than implementing the president's directive," Cruz said. "I will continue to work towards permanently ending the nuclear deal, including by exercising Congress's important oversight responsibility to ensure the implementation of United States policy."
The issue of these civil nuclear waivers has emerged as a flashpoint in the debate over Iran and the future of the nuclear deal. For months, Cruz and other Iran critics in Congress have pressured the State Department to end these waivers, which they say have allowed Iran to continue its march towards a functional nuclear weapon.
While top officials in the White House had anticipated that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would end these waivers in the coming weeks, new reports indicate that the State Department will again renew the sanctions waivers, roiling opponents of the nuclear deal.
The waivers have been linked to the preservation of the deal itself. European countries still party to the nuclear deal have been working with Iran for months on plans to skirt the toughest of new U.S. sanctions issued by the Trump administration.
Multiple U.S. officials who have spoken to the Washington Free Beacon in recent months have supported Cruz's claims about a so-called deep state operation to save the nuclear deal. These sources allege that a cadre of former Obama administration officials still in the State and Treasury Departments have teamed up to undermine Trump's hardline policy on Iran.
Cruz is the first senior lawmaker to publicly accuse these officials of engaging in a plot to save the Iran nuclear deal behind the president's back, though others have made similar claims privately over the past months.
Ultimately, Pompeo will make the final decision on the waivers.
The Washington Post‘s Josh Rogin first reported on Tuesday about an Oval Office meeting in which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pressured Trump to sign off on continuing the nuclear waivers.
"In an Oval Office meeting last week, Trump sided with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who argued that the administration should again renew sanctions waivers related to five separate parts of Iran's nuclear program," Rogin reported. "Mnuchin prevailed over the objections of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, according to six administration officials."
"I hope these reports turn out to be wrong," Cruz said. "The president has correctly ordered his administration to halt implementation of the catastrophic Obama-Iran nuclear deal. These waivers are part of the deal, and allow the Ayatollahs to build up their nuclear program, including at Fordow, a bunker they dug into the side of a mountain so they could build nuclear weapons."
The State Department would not comment on Wednesday about the veracity of the reports when contacted by the Free Beacon.
One U.S. official, speaking only on background to the Free Beacon, said the reports have only emboldened Iran, which has viewed the news as a win.
"You can tell that this decision is indefensible because no one wants to own it," said the official, who works on the Iran portfolio. "It's the classic D.C. game where everyone is blaming everyone else to reporters, because no one wants to get blamed for making the president look like a clown. In the meantime, Zarif gets more time to send snarky tweets about Pompeo and Bolton. Good day for everyone except America."
Meanwhile, Iranian officials announced on Wednesday that they will continue to breach key portions of the deal banning the enrichment of uranium until the U.S. and its partners agree to roll back sanctions.
"I think it will be the last opportunity for the nuclear deal parties," Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Moussavi was quoted as saying in the country's state-controlled press. "We will put into effect the next step if Iran's interests are not met and if they do not do anything special, the Islamic Republic of Iran will not extend the steps anymore."