Russia is reportedly set to ship a huge consignment of natural uranium measuring 116 metric tons (nearly 130 tons) to Iran, in a move ratified by the outgoing U.S. administration and all other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
The move aimed at solidifying the landmark Iran nuclear deal, signed in July 2015, also compensates Iran for the 40 metric tons of heavy water (reactor coolant) exported by it to Russia, according to anonymous diplomats who spoke ahead of a meeting this week in Vienna of representatives of Iran, the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany to review Iranian complaints, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
However, the latest move may unsettle the incoming U.S. administration led by President-elect Donald Trump and several other American lawmakers who have already articulated their criticism of the deal.
During his election rallies, Trump had already pledged to withdraw support from the deal. Separately, he also told an Israeli lobbying group that “it was the worst deal ever negotiated” and that it was his “number one priority to dismantle it.” Other members of the Trump transition team such as Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who will be the president-elect’s National Security Advisor and Mike Pompeo, who is taking over as director of the CIA, have also similarly denounced the deal.
Although Iran has pledged to peaceful use of the nuclear technology and diplomats claim that the transferred natural uranium would be under strict overwatch by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency for 25 years after implementation of the deal, the main concerns for many in the U.S. is whether Iran will continue to be committed to the civilian use of nuclear energy as the uranium can be enriched to produce atomic weapons.
“No part of the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] obligates the P5+1 to gift the Iranian regime tons of natural uranium, which can be further enriched to build bombs. ... This is one more reckless unilateral concession that the Obama administration should forgo, particularly amid reports that Iran has been close to exhausting its domestic deposits,” Matan Shamir, executive director at the advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, told the Algemeiner.
Similarly, David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and International Security think tank, that reportedly briefs U.S. lawmakers on Iran's nuclear program, was quoted by the AP as saying that Iran could potentially make 10 simple nuclear bombs — “depending on the efficiency of the enrichment process and the design of the nuclear weapon.”
However, U.S. officials like State Department spokesman John Kirby and White House spokesman Josh Earnest downplayed the fears. They also did not confirm the reported agreement.
Kirby, for instance, told reporters there is no ban on such imports by Iran and Earnest reportedly said such arrangements are "subject to the careful monitoring and inspections that are included in the deal to ensure that Iran is living up to the commitments that they made."