Trump Administration Sends Mixed Signals to Iran on Civilian Nuclear Program

Won't allow Russia to process Iran's uranium

Trying to balance the reality of Iran having an active, legitimate civilian nuclear program with the administration’s desire to pick fights with Iran on every pretext, the Trump Administration has decided to renew only some of their waivers allowing Western companies to do work on Iran’s civilian program.

Waivers were renewed for 90 days on the Fordow, Bushehr, and Arak nuclear facilities, allowing work there. The State Department focused on two waivers that were revoked, one allowing Russia to process Iranian uranium, and one which allows Iran to ship heavy water to Oman for future sale.

State Department officials say the revocation is in keeping with their policy of “maximum pressure,” and was aimed at denying Iran a pathway to a nuclear weapon. In reality, neither US revocation is likely to be honored at all, since neither is a proliferation risk.

Russia’s processing of uranium to fuel Iran’s civilian reactors is done at a level far below that needed for weaponization, and Russia is obliged to do this under the P5+1 nuclear deal. Russia clearly will continue to do so even if the US tells them they are not allowed.

The heavy water sanctions, by contrast, are almost certain to be ignored by everybody. Heavy water is not in and of itself a nuclear materiel, nor is its international export limited by US demands. Once again, the P5+1 deal gives Iran unconditional rights to export that water, and the only reason it is sent to Oman is because the US dishonored the deal and stopped buying the water in the first place.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of