The Biden administration renewed a series of sanctions waivers that permit Iran and Russia to cooperate on nuclear work at Iranian enrichment sites, according to a non-public notification sent to Congress and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken authorized the waivers on Jan. 31, but Congress was not notified of the decision until late on Feb. 3, after the Free Beacon began making inquiries about the exemptions. Senior congressional sources said the Biden administration is trying to sweep the sanctions waivers under the rug amid renewed concerns about Iran and Russia’s military alliance.
The waivers—a vestige of the 2015 nuclear deal that the Biden administration is trying to salvage—provide billions in profit for Russian-state controlled firms, such as the Rosatom nuclear company, for work at Iran’s Fordow nuclear plant, a contested military site suspected of housing Tehran’s nuclear weapons program. At this site, Iran is enriching uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon, to purity levels that international observers worry put them within reach of a bomb. By permitting cooperation, critics charge that the Biden administration is allowing Tehran to develop its nuclear program while enriching Russia through business with state-controlled organizations.
“These waivers send a message to both Tehran and Moscow that Washington still wants to move forward with a Russia-enabled Iran nuclear deal where [Russian president Vladimir] Putin and the mullahs both make billions,” said Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank and former White House National Security Council director for countering Iranian weapons of mass destruction. “It’s a real stab in the back to Ukraine and a win for Rosatom.”