Iran claims nuclear program will continue after end of US waivers

Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization dismissed the decision by the United States to end waivers on cooperation involving the country's nuclear program and said the nation will be self-sufficient in those areas.

al-monitor A view of the water nuclear reactor at Arak, Iran, Dec. 23, 2019.  Photo by WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS.

May 28, 2020

The spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Behrouz Kamalvandi, has shrugged off the latest decision by the United States to end the waivers for Iran’s nuclear program, which were among the few remaining elements of the 2015 nuclear deal the Trump administration exited in 2018.

“America is trying to distract world public opinion with these actions given Iran’s powerful actions in the world and the continuation of its nuclear program,” Kamalvandi told the Iranian Students’ News Agency on May 28. He said Iran’s ability to sell fuel to Venezuela despite US threats against doing so, Iran’s “strength on the free seas of the world” and Iran’s “impressive advancement” in its nuclear program forced the United States to make this decision to create news.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced May 27 that in two months the United States would no longer allow waivers for European, Russian and Chinese help on various aspects of Iran’s nuclear program, specifically at the Arak heavy water reactor and Tehran Research Center. The Trump administration had previously argued that such waivers would constrain Iran’s nuclear program but Pompeo’s latest statement is a reversal of that position.

Kamalvandi said, “The end of US waivers on nuclear cooperation according to the nuclear deal will have no impact on the process of Iran’s work.” He continued, “This is just media noise and nothing more and they know this reality well.” 

On the specific waivers and Iran’s work with other nations, Kamalvandi said Iran has no problems accessing its fuel from Russia and in the future will produce its own fuel without help from any country. Currently Russia supplies Iran with nuclear fuel for the Bushehr plant. On the redesigning of the Arak nuclear reactor, Kamalvandi said China and other European countries are assisting Iran but that the “primary work of redesigning the reactor and the fuel is being done by us.”

In other news, conservative politician Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf has been elected speaker of Iran’s parliament. Former Speaker Ali Larijani had held the position since 2008. Ghalibaf was mayor of Tehran from 2005 to 2017 and had unsuccessfully run for president. While he is a conservative politician and a former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' air force, he is not part of the new and younger generation of hard-line politicians. 

The current parliament is dominated mostly by conservatives after Reformist politicians were mostly disqualified from running. The biggest problem for this parliament will be the economy and working with the current and next administration in creating a budget for the country. President Hassan Rouhani’s approach of opening up the country to foreign investment received a blow after the US exit from the nuclear deal and the reimposition of nuclear-related sanctions. Now with the country still fighting the coronavirus, parliament and the president in his final year will have to live with each other until the next presidential election in 2021.    

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