Iran Restarts Nuclear Work as US Officials Bicker Over Policy

The Iranian government is maintaining a hardline attitude toward international demands even while its currency falls and businesses close (Image: Julia Maudlin via  Flickr CC BY 2.0)
The Iranian government is maintaining a hardline attitude toward international demands even while its currency falls and businesses close (Image: Julia Maudlin via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s secretary of state, has rebuked lawmakers for naysaying his department’s policies on Iran, saying that delicate efforts were underway to pressure the Islamic State to give up its nuclear weapons program.

In May 2018, the Trump administration scrapped a nuclear deal that had been signed with the Middle Eastern power in 2015 on grounds that it merely delayed Iran’s progress on nuclear technology and did nothing to prevent its development of ballistic missiles.

In November, new U.S. sanctions went into effect targeting the Iranian government while leaving waivers that allow Tehran to keep its oil industry on life support.

Sen. Ted Cruz and Pompeo had a back-and-forth debate in a Congressional hearing in which the Texas senator questioned the secretary of state on the waivers and urged more hardline measures to be taken.

Mike Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State. (Image:  Gage Skidmore via flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

Mike Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State. (Image: Gage Skidmore via flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

“I have opposed this catastrophic deal at every stage, and the Senate will continue to take seriously our obligation to protect national security,” Cruz said, referring to the 2015 nuclear deal, the Washington Free Beacon reported April 11. He said the waivers need to be rescinded before “Iran has had even more time to rake in billions and build up their nuclear infrastructure.”

Pompeo defended the waivers as being essential to fine-tuning negotiations with the Iranian government, which has maintained its own hardline stance on the issue of denuclearization, and repeatedly issued anti-American statements to protest the sanctions that have seen the deterioration of living standards.

Centrifuges coming online

According to the Free Beacon, because of remaining elements in the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran has been able to continue its nuclear research, and on April 11, the country’s designated “National Nuclear Day, begun spinning new nuclear centrifuges to honor “all the jihadi efforts of our country’s nuclear industrialists.”

Nuclear centrifuges are a crucial technology in the production of weapons-grade uranium. “Today, and throughout the past year, we have launched 114 new technologies,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was quoted as saying in remarks translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

Rouhani also claimed that Iran had “acquired missiles and weapons you could not have imagined.”

The 2015 Iran nuclear deal did not cover ballistic missile development or uranium enrichment, both key aspects in building a nuclear weapons arsenal. (Image: The Israel Project via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

The 2015 Iran nuclear deal did not cover ballistic missile development or uranium enrichment, both key aspects in building a nuclear weapons arsenal. (Image: The Israel Project via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Free Beacon reported that the debates between Pompeo and Cruz in Congress reflected a growing split in Washington over how to handle the Iranian nuclear threat and what is to be done regarding the remnant provisions of the 2015 deal, which is strongly opposed by President Trump.

“The State Department’s going to get it right,” Pompeo said, adding that the mission given by Trump was clear. “We’re going to put pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran, on the regime, until we get for the Iranian people what it is they deserve, the chance to live a normal life in a state that isn’t the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.”

Pompeo accused Cruz and other legislators of “grandstanding” in order to sell a “good story.”

While remaining open to further talks, the U.S. government on April 15 announced via a federal notice that Washington had designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization.

Since 2017, the Trump administration has pursued a policy of “principled realism” in its diplomacy with what it calls “outlaw regimes,” and maintains there is no contradiction between taking necessary steps to angle for satisfactory deals while pressuring those governments in other ways.

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