US secretary of state Mike Pompeo announced on May 28, Thursday, the end of the last set of sanction waivers provided to Iran under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the Iran nuclear deal. According to the waiver, a few Russian, Chinese and European firms were allowed to work at certain Iranian nuclear sites in spite of the sanctions on Iran.
Despite unilaterally withdrawing from the JCPOA in 2018, the US had continued to renew these exemptions every 60 days while also imposing strict economic and political sanctions against Iran. However, Pompeo announced that after the expiry of the current 60 days period, companies working on the sites in Iran will be subject to sanctions in the US.
Pompeo tweeted, “Today, I am ending the sanctions waiver for JCPOA-related projects in Iran, effective in 60 days. Iran’s continued nuclear escalation makes clear this cooperation must end. Further attempts at nuclear extortion will only bring greater pressure on the regime.”
Reuters reported that the move is expected to affect work on the Arak heavy water research reactor and the Tehran Research Reactors. However, the Russian-built Bushehr plant will get 90-days exemption to “ensure safety of operations”.
The US has alleged that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and harbors ambitions of regional hegemony. Iran, on the other hand, has maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only and that it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, the US continues its “maximum pressure campaign” against Iran and has imposed several fresh sanctions despite the appeal by the international community to refrain from such acts during the COVID-19 period. Iran is among the worst-affected countries by the pandemic and the US sanctions have hampered its ability to tackle the crisis.
This month, the US also tried to extend the UN arms embargo on Iran set to expire in October as per the JCPOA. It also attempted to extend UN Security Council resolution 2231 and campaigned for the re-imposition of all the pre-2015 international sanctions on Iran. The move has been opposed by Russia and China in the UN Security Council (UNSC), who have claimed that the implementation of the JCPOA must be the only way forward.
The JCPOA was signed in 2015 between Iran, the US, China, Russia, the UK, France and Germany with the approval of the UNSC to end all international sanctions on Iran in return for it adhering to transparency and restrictions in its nuclear program. Though Iran and other countries have adhered to the deal’s provisions, the US administration led by Donald Trump has called it “the worst deal ever” and has asked for renegotiation after unilaterally withdrawing in 2018.