Biden Admin Won’t Commit To Enforcing Iran Sanctions. Lawmakers Warn It’s Empowering ‘Putin’s War Machine.’

A group of GOP lawmakers is pressing the Biden administration to clarify its stance on a set of sanctions waivers that have enabled Iran and Russia to build out portions of Tehran’s most contested nuclear sites, providing Moscow with cash that is powering its war on Ukraine.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and three of his colleagues say the Biden administration has left Congress in the dark about the status of these nuclear waivers, which expired in January, the Washington Free Beacon reported last week. They provided upwards of $10 billion in profit for Russian-state controlled firms, such as the Rosatom energy company, for work at Iran’s various nuclear plants, including contested military sites suspected of housing the country’s atomic weapons program.

Republicans have been pressing the administration to nix these waivers for years. Now that they have expired, the State Department will not commit to enforcing sanctions that would otherwise apply. This is fueling confusion on Capitol Hill about U.S. policy toward Iran and Russia at a time when both countries are bolstering their military alliance, including a $50 billion investment by Tehran in several new Russian-made nuke plants.

“Continuing to issue these waivers clearly does not serve U.S. nonproliferation objectives or national security interests,” McCaul writes in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, along with Reps. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.), Thomas Kean (R., N.J.), and Keith Self (R., Texas), also foreign affairs committee members.

The expiration of these waivers earlier this year “was a welcome step,” but the lawmakers are concerned “that by failing to take a clear stance on this, the administration is leaving the door open to future sanctions relief on Iran despite the potential benefits for Vladmir Putin’s war machine.”

The lawmakers say the administration’s policy constitutes a “failure to hold Iran to account for its nuclear provocation.”

When asked last week by the Free Beacon to explain the administration’s stance on the issue, a State Department spokesman would not say why the waivers were allowed to expire. U.S. officials, the spokesman said, are still “reviewing the waiver as part of the regular review process” and a public comment will only be given “once a decision is made as part of that review.”

Congress has been left fishing for answers about U.S. policy at a time when Russia and Iran are using their alliance to foment chaos across the Middle East and in Europe. Iran has provided lethal drone technology to Moscow, which has in turn helped Tehran expand its nuclear infrastructure. Amid the worst Middle East war in decades, Iran has been marching closer to an atomic weapon, enriching uranium to levels needed to fuel a bomb.

“Iran’s stockpiling of highly enriched uranium and continued installation of advanced IR-6 centrifuges undermines any claim of Iran maintaining an exclusively peaceful nuclear program,” the lawmakers write. “Iran is now capable of producing seven bombs worth of fissile material in a month. This level of enrichment has no justifiable civilian purpose.”

McCaul and his colleagues are pressing the State Department to clarify its stance on the waivers and enforce “the full scope of the law, including mandatory sanctions” that are required under the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act, a sanctions bill that became law in 2012.

When the sanctions waivers were in place, the lawmakers write, Iran began hiding portions of its nuclear program from international inspectors, leaving them in the dark about Iran’s enrichment activities.

Iran’s obfuscation, they said, “raises further concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and our adversaries’ role in enabling it.”

Earlier this month, Iran announced plans to expand its Russian-made nuclear plant known as Bushehr, a suspected weapons site, as well as a $50 billion investment in other facilities. Construction is slated to pick up pace in May.

Iran also broke ground on four new nuclear power plants earlier this year, with regional experts suspecting that both China and Russia may be assisting with the projects.

Amid this activity, the Biden administration “has extended significant financial relief to entice Iran to agree to a new nuclear deal,” according to the lawmakers.

Original News Source – Washington Free Beacon

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