Key senators circulate legislation banning Iran nuclear waivers

Bloomberg – Two of the U.S. Senate’s staunchest opponents of the Iran nuclear deal drafted legislation that would bar President Donald Trump from renewing waivers allowing the Iran to maintain a limited civil nuclear program.

The legislation from Republicans Ted Cruz of Texas and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham is part of a broader effort by hardline opponents of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which Trump withdrew the U.S. from last year, to end the few remaining benefits Iran still gets from the accord. They circulated their draft legislation to officials at the Departments of Treasury, State and Energy this week, according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter.

When Trump backed out of the nuclear accord, he imposed a raft of new sanctions designed to choke Iran’s economy and compel it to agree to stricter limits on its nuclear and missile programs. But he left intact a set of sanctions waivers allowing Iran to work with nations that remain in the deal. The point was to limit nuclear weapons proliferation and ensure Iran doesn’t enrich uranium to high levels.

The bill from Graham and Cruz would end three waivers allowing work at a reactor at Arak, an enrichment facility at Fordow, and the Tehran Research Reactor, according to the draft. The administration renewed those waivers for 90 days on July 31 and has been debating whether to do so again.

The State Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Iran moved in recent months to exceed the 2015 deal’s limits on enriched uranium stockpiles, though President Hassan Rouhani’s government insists it is still meeting the terms of the accord.

Proponents of the legislation say the Tehran government channeled a covert nuclear-weapons program through civil nuclear projects in the early 2000s. They also argue that ending the waivers would make it harder for a Democratic president to revive the deal should Trump not be re-elected next year.