Lawmakers Demand Trump Admin Nix Loopholes Permitting Iranian Nuke Work

Members petition administration to amp up international sanctions

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney / Getty Images
July 17, 2019

A delegation of 50 members of Congress petitioned the Trump administration on Wednesday to cancel a series of sanctions waivers that have permitted Iran to continue its most contested nuclear research, including at a military site known to have housed the Islamic Republic's bomb program, according to a copy of the letter exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The letter, spearheaded by Rep. Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.), represents the strongest protest to date by lawmakers who view the waivers as an attempt by some deeply entrenched U.S. officials to keep the landmark nuclear deal on life support against the White House's wishes.

The Free Beacon has reported multiple times in the past months on a protracted inter-agency battle between hardline officials in the administration who seek to nix the nuclear waivers and those who maintain they are necessary to keep Iran appeased. A growing number of lawmakers have expressed frustration with the Trump administration's decision to continue renewing these sanctions waivers at a time when Iran is openly breaching international restrictions on the amount of enriched uranium it stockpiles inside the country.

The group of lawmakers are now demanding that the administration make good on its promises to wage a so-called "maximum pressure" campaign on Iran. This would include killing the waivers permitting Iranian nuclear work and also pressuring the United Nations to invoke a mechanism that would restore the international community's sanctions on Iran, most of which were lifted as part of the nuclear agreement.

"In an effort to continue your extremely successful maximum pressure campaign against Iran, we are writing to urge you to dismantle the last remaining vestiges of the failed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) once and for all," the letter states.

The lawmakers urge the administration "to respond to Iran's nuclear escalation by ending remaining U.S. 'civil nuclear' waivers."

"These waivers legitimize Iran's illicit nuclear infrastructure and sustain projects established by the JCPOA. In keeping with your administration's statements that the disastrous Iran nuclear deal must be terminated, the State Department should end these waivers."

Senators have already sent a similar letter. Sen Ted Cruz (R., Texas) recently sent a letter co-signed by Sens. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) calling for a complete end to the civil nuclear waivers.

Lawmakers consider the matter all the more pressing in light of Iran's increased uranium enrichment and the Islamic Republic's promises to go even further down this road that it has in the past.

"The rogue regime in Tehran is today showing off its long-standing and robust nuclear ambitions," the lawmakers write. "In the last two months alone, Iran has stockpiled more than 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium and has increased enrichment above 3.67 percent. It is now threatening to take further nuclear measures."

This includes clandestine efforts by Iran to enrich uranium at a military bunker called Fordow now known to have never been converted from a weapons research facility. Iran had agreed to dismantle the site as part of the nuclear deal, but new reports from nuclear experts show the site is still up and running.

"Tehran's current nuclear expansion is a direct result of the JCPOA's failure to fully and permanently eliminate Iran's nuclear capabilities," the lawmakers write. "Under President Obama's deal, Iran was left with its capabilities intact, free to threaten the world at the time of its choosing. "This deal placed Iran on a pathway to a nuclear weapon and gave the regime a windfall of sanctions relief and hard currency. Iran's reckless actions validate the decision you made to cease U.S. participation in the JCPOA and demand complete denuclearization."

In addition to advocating for nixing the nuclear waivers, the group of lawmakers also urge the administration to press the U.N. Security Council to restore international sanctions on Iran. Such a move could deal a deathblow to the ailing Iranian economy and potentially force the hardline regime out of power.

"While you restored U.S. unilateral sanctions on Iran last year with great success, your administration has yet to seek the restoration of international sanctions and restrictions under United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231," the lawmakers write. "The current U.N. framework endorses the JCPOA's dangerous sunsets—meaning that Iran remains on a path to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of international legitimacy."

"As Tehran continues on its hostile trajectory, the need to restore these international restrictions will only grow," the letter states. "Mr. President, your maximum pressure campaign on Iran is working. To continue your successful strategy, we must renew all U.S. and international sanctions on Iran's nuclear program."