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January 9, 2017 9:27 pm

Nuclear Watchdog Group: Approval of Russian Shipment of Natural Uranium to Iran is ‘Reckless Unilateral Concession’ by Outgoing Obama Administration

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US President Barack Obama. Photo: The Official White House Photostream via Wikimedia Commons.

US President Barack Obama. Photo: The Official White House Photostream via Wikimedia Commons.

The news that the US and five other world powers have approved a Russian shipment of 116 metric tons of natural uranium to Iran is “only likely to spark a greater backlash” by the new Congress and President-elect Donald Trump against the July 2015 nuclear agreement, a top official with an anti-deal advocacy group told The Algemeiner on Monday.

“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,” United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) Executive Director Matan Shamir said. “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.”

According to The Associated Press, the shipment is meant to “compensate” Iran for 44 metric tons of heavy water it has exported to Russia since the implementation of the nuclear deal began.

David Albright, head of the Washington, DC-based Institute for Science and International Security think tank, was quoted by AP as saying the material could be used to make 10 simple nuclear bombs — “depending on the efficiency of the enrichment process and the design of the nuclear weapon.”

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The fate of the nuclear deal after Trump takes office on Jan. 20 remains unclear.

In a pre-election interview with The Algemeiner in early November, senior Trump adviser David Friedman — who has since been picked to serve as the next US ambassador to Israel — said a Trump administration would “reengage with the world powers in a way that seeks to reintroduce leverage on Iran.”

Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I look forward to speaking to [President-elect Donald Trump] about what to do about this bad deal.”

“Now, I opposed the deal because it doesn’t prevent Iran from getting nukes,” Netanyahu explained. “It paves the way for Iran to get nuclear weapons. The problem isn’t so much that Iran will break the deal, but that Iran will keep it because it just can walk in within a decade, and even less, and certainly within 12 years, it can just walk in to industrial-scale enrichment of uranium to make the core for an arsenal of nuclear weapons.”

In a late November interview with The Algemeiner, Behnam Ben Taleblu — senior Iran analyst for the Washington, DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank — said a Trump administration “should look to recent history and course-correct some of the issues in the deal that the current administration overlooked.”

“For instance,” Taleblu noted, “it should not excuse Iran’s excess production of heavy water, which has happened twice now. More broadly it should work to change a key dynamic in the JCPOA’s implementation, namely the asymmetry. Iranian officials often tout that America needs the deal more than they do. They regularly transgress the deal’s spirit and occasionally its letter. To change this, the Trump administration should aim for, borrowing from the noted academic Thomas Schelling, ‘the manipulation of risk,’ and make it known that Iran needs the accord more than the US.”

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