Later this week, the White House will decide whether to renew five waivers of sanctions on Tehran’s civilian nuclear program. The waivers were instituted as part of the 2015 agreement with the Islamic Republic, and President Trump has continued to renew them even after withdrawing from the agreement. But Andrea Stricker and Behnam Ben Taleblu argue that the U.S. should let the waivers on two of the most dangerous aspects of the Iranian nuclear arsenal—its reactors in the cities of Fordow and Arak—expire:
Despite the passage of four years since the deal entered into force, Tehran has still not converted the [Fordow] facility into a “nuclear, physics, and technology center” for relevant international scientific cooperation, as it pledged. Moreover, Tehran has slow-rolled any genuine effort [to do so].
Since the 2015 deal was reached, information from a treasure trove of secret archive documents relating to Iran’s nuclear program indicates that this once covert and highly fortified facility was originally planned for weapons-grade-uranium production for one to two nuclear weapons per year. Its past intended use, coupled with the fact that it is buried deep underground, is why Iran considers Fordow a strategic facility and, accordingly, delayed its conversion for more peaceful purposes. . . . Canceling the waiver for Fordow would signal that Washington will not bless any of these moves, and it would be a step toward righting a wrong from the nuclear deal that permitted Fordow to remain open in the first place.
At issue in Arak is whether Iran has already circumvented restrictions on the plutonium pathway toward nuclear weapons, [which Iranian officials have as much as admitted to doing]. Continuing to waive sanctions related to Arak would amount to the administration throwing its hands up in the face of Iran’s bragging about how it bypassed one of the few nonproliferation achievements of the nuclear deal.
There is no substitute for U.S. leadership on the matter. The Trump administration continues to use the rhetoric of maximum pressure against Iran. Revoking and suspending two waivers related to the regime’s illicit nuclear activities would go a long way toward backing up this rhetoric with concrete policies.