The United States is ending a sanctions waiver for civil-nuclear work at a site where Iran recently announced it was enriching uranium, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday.
“The United States will terminate the sanctions waiver related to the nuclear facility at Fordow effective Dec. 15, 2019,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. “The right amount of uranium enrichment for the world’s largest state sponsor of terror is zero. Iran originally constructed Fordow as a fortified underground bunker to conduct secret uranium enrichment work, and there is no legitimate reason for Iran to resume enrichment at this previously clandestine site.”
“Iran should reverse its activity there immediately,” he added.
Pompeo’s announcement comes after Iran announced, and the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed, that it had resumed uranium enrichment at its underground Fordow site in its latest breach of the 2015 nuclear deal.
The deal between Iran and other world powers allowed Fordow, a long-secret facility, to maintain centrifuges for research purposes, but banned enrichment activities there.
Iran has been steadily increasing its violations of the nuclear deal, which President Trump withdrew the United States from in 2018, in an effort to pressure the United States and Europe for sanctions relief. Iranian officials have maintained the violations are reversible should the relief come.
On Monday, Pompeo accused Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of using “nuclear brinksmanship to extort the international community.”
“The United States rejects this approach completely, and call on all nations to do the same,” Pompeo said. “The only viable way forward is through comprehensive negotiations that address the full range of Iran’s threats in their entirety.”
Though Trump withdrew from the deal and reimposed sanctions that had been lifted under it, the administration granted sanctions waivers to allow Europe, China and Russia to cooperate with Iran on converting nuclear facilities to nonmilitary purposes. In addition to Fordow, the administration granted waivers for projects at Bushehr and Arak.
The administration renewed all three waivers at the end of October.
The administration has argued the waivers were necessary to maintain oversight over Iran’s nuclear work.
But Iran hard-liners in Congress have been increasingly pressuring the administration to revoke the waivers. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) introduced a bill last week to revoke the waivers.
“Iran is exploiting the civil-nuclear waivers from the Obama-Iran deal, which the Trump administration has continued to issue, to build up their nuclear program and buy time until the nuclear deal expires, leaving them with a full-blown unlimited civilian nuclear program,” Cruz said in a statement last week reissued hours before Pompeo’s Monday announcement. “Enough is enough. Now is the time to end the deal once and for all.”