A ship carrying more than 25,000 pounds of low-enriched uranium materials departed from Iran to Russia on Dec 28. State Secretary John Kerry called the move a significant step in the fulfillment of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed by the European Union and the P5+1 powers. The U.S. Congress, meanwhile, remained unimpressed.
“The shipment included the removal of all of Iran’s nuclear material enriched to 20 percent,” Kerry said in his announcement. The secretary was highly optimistic that Iran had taken a significant step toward meeting its commitment to have no more than 300 kg of low-enriched uranium by Implementation Day.
“I remain so proud of our team in achieving what was truly one of our most important accomplishments of 2015 – ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful going forward,” Kerry said in the announcement.
The next step towards the Implementation Day is for the International Atomic Energy Agency to verify that Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile is 300 kg or less, Kerry said. Iran must also remove its uranium enrichment infrastructure, including a facility that serves as its plutonium pathway to a nuclear weapon, the secretary added. To ensure that everything goes according to the the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the government will consult with IAEA and other members of the P5+1.
As Kerry expressed optimism regarding the nuclear deal with Iran, the Congress, meanwhile, is readying round two of sanctions against Iran, according to a report from The Hill. Senators are mulling extending a set of sanctions against Iran, The Hill reported. The extension will involve Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic missiles and its energy sector the report said.
Speaking exclusively with The Hill, Senator Ben Cardin said the Congress will extend the Iran Sanction Law sometime next year. The matter was discussed by the senators during a December briefing and everyone is looking at an extension as early as January to February, Cardin said. Senator Chris Coons also told The Hill that many members of Congress will call for the swift renewal of the sanctions law in January.
If pursued, the administration and lawmakers will find each other in an awkward position as the Congress opens in 2016. President Barack Obama will try to lift sanctions against Iran as part of the signed nuclear deal. On the other hand, the lawmakers will work hard to extend sanctions.
The situation is particularly complicated because renewing sanctions might be perceived by Iran as violation of the deal. The lawmakers on one hand perceive that the extension will give the administration the ability to “snap back” in any moment that Iran violated the deal.
In his remarks about the Iran nuclear deal in August, Mr. Obama said, “If Congress kills this deal, we will lose more than just constraints on Iran’s nuclear program, or the sanctions we have painstakingly built. We will have lost something more precious: America’s credibility as a leader of diplomacy; America’s credibility as the anchor of the international system.”