Secretary of State Mike Pompeo officially announced Wednesday that the United States will be ending sanctions waivers allowing Russian, Chinese and European firms to continue work at certain Iranian nuclear sites.
The decision, first reported by the Washington Post, seemed designed to tighten the U.S. "maximum pressure" policy against Tehran since Washington pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal two years ago. That deal had provided Iran with relief from economic sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
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“Today, I am announcing the end of the sanctions waiver covering all remaining JCPOA-originating nuclear projects in Iran – the Arak reactor conversion, the provision of enriched uranium for the Tehran Research Reactor, and the export of Iran’s spent and scrap research reactor fuel,” Pompeo said in a press statement.
Pompeo added that companies and entities involved in projects in Iran will have a 60-day period to “cease their operations.”
Pompeo gave no precise justification for the move, which will halt some work originally designed to make it more difficult for Iran to potentially develop fissile material for nuclear bombs.
However, Pompeo said Washington would extend for 90 days a waiver “covering ongoing international support to the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant Unit 1 to ensure safety of operations.
“We will continue to closely monitor all developments in Iran’s nuclear program and can modify this waiver at any time. The Iranian regime has continued its nuclear brinkmanship by expanding proliferation sensitive activities," Pompeo said, adding this "will lead to increased pressure on Iran."
In addition, the secretary of state announced U.S. sanctions on Atomic Energy Organization of Iran officials Majid Agha'i and Amjad Sazgar, whom he accused of potentially contributing to the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
Condemning a cartoon published by Iran earlier in May that called for a "final solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Pompeo said that “A regime that just days ago invoked ‘The Final Solution’ and which regularly threatens to wipe Israel off the map must never obtain a nuclear weapon.
“The United States welcomes the international community’s widespread condemnation of the regime’s recent anti-Semitic statements. The regime’s vile rhetoric only strengthens the international community’s resolve to counter its threats,” he said.
Also in May, Iran and Israel locked virtual horns after hackers linked to the Islamic Republic tried to tamper with civilian water systems in rural Israel. A subsequent cyber attack, attributed to Israel, knocked out computer systems in one of Iran's biggest ports, backing up marine traffic.