The US will buy 32 tons of Iran’s heavy water to prevent Tehran from violating the nuclear deal, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal on Friday. The agreement for the US purchase of heavy water, which can be used to produce nuclear weapons, was signed on Friday in Vienna and is estimated at $8.6 million. According to the nuclear deal reached in July, Iran is not allowed to stockpile over 130 tons of heavy water during the initial years of the deal. However, Iran has overproduced it and risks exceeding the allowed amount, violating the nuclear deal. The US decision to buy Iran’s heavy water appears to be motivated by the desire to protect the nuclear accord. However, the decision is also being promoted as a way to legitimize Iran’s nuclear program and encourage other countries to rely on Iran for nuclear material. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz stated that the new US purchase “will be a statement to the world: ‘You want to buy heavy water from Iran, you can buy heavy water from Iran. It’s been done. Even the United States did it.’”
According to The Wall Street Journal, some nuclear experts believe “the U.S. move comes close to subsidizing Iran’s nuclear program in a bid to keep the agreement alive.” David Albright, President of the Institute for Science and International Security, a nonpartisan, nonproliferation think tank, argues, "We shouldn’t be paying them [Iranians] for something they shouldn't be producing in the first place." According to several nuclear experts, because heavy water can be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium, Iran’s production of the material is still a proliferation concern, particularly since restrictions imposed on Iran's nuclear program will be lifted after 10-15 years, in accordance with the deal reached last July. Additionally, Albright’s institute tweeted, “We are encouraging and legitimizing dangerous exports by a nation that is a serial smuggler of nuclear and missile goods.”
Congressional leaders, already outraged by the administration’s reported plans to grant Iran access to the US dollar, have criticized the purchase, arguing that it goes well beyond what is required by the nuclear deal. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) stated, “U.S. taxpayers should not have to subsidize Iran’s nuclear program by buying heavy water that Iran produces in excess of what’s allowed under the flawed nuclear agreement.” Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), asserted, “Far from curbing its nuclear program, this encourages Iran to produce more heavy water to sell – with a stamp of U.S. approval – on the international market.” Royce wrote to Secretary Moniz to ask how the US will pay for it and what guarantees the administration has that the funds would not be used by Tehran to support terrorism. US officials have not yet specified whether US dollars would be involved in the transaction for heavy water.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R – Fla.) and co-sponsor Sen. Joe Manchin (D – W. Va.) introduced on Tuesday the Senate version of a concurrent resolution calling on the United States to “continue to exercise its veto in the United Nations Security Council on resolutions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.” A bipartisan version of the resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives on Monday. A statement from the Israel Allies Foundation (IAF) explained the significance of the congressional action:
As France continues to organize for a UNSC binding resolution that would mandate a procedural role for the UNSC in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and parameters for such negotiations, President Obama has yet to announce whether he would exercise America’s veto. The absence of an American veto in such a situation would be change in long-standing American policy that has ensured negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians are direct and without United Nations interference.In a statement on the resolution, Rubio condemned “the disingenuous actions by the Palestinian Authority leadership to seek statehood through the U.N. and bypass direct talks with Israel.” He added, “This is just the latest sign that Israel currently lacks a true partner for peace. These attempts by the Palestinians will only push the two parties further apart. It is the duty of the United States to stand with Israel and continue to veto any U.N. resolution that inserts the United Nations into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.”
Last week, 90% of the members of the House of Representatives signed a letter written by six congressional leaders, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinin (R – Fla.) and Rep. Ted Deutch (R – Fla.), urging President Barack Obama “not to back any resolution at the United Nations that sets parameters for Israeli-Palestinian talks.”
Aaron Menenberg, IAF’s director of congressional affairs, told The Tower that “the bipartisan, bicameral resolution takes Congress’ interest on this issue to another level. First you had the Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the Middle East Subcommittee directly engaging the Administration with their letter on subject, and now you have prominent legislators from both parties in both chambers introducing the sense of Congress that the United Nations, because of its facilitation of the Palestinian Authority’s ongoing effort to kill the peace process through unilateral recognition of statehood at the UN, has no credibility to secure a resolution to the Israel-Arab conflict.” (via TheTower.org)