Barack Obama has now authorized the United States government to pay the government of Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism, to produce nuclear material.
The Hill reports The Obama administration is set to buy 32 tons of material used to develop nuclear weapons from Iran, in an apparent effort to shore up the nuclear deal implemented earlier this year.
An Energy Department spokesman confirmed Friday that the U.S. will purchase the material — known as heavy water — and hopes to resell it within the U.S.
“The United States will not be Iran’s customer forever,” the official said in a statement. “It is exclusively Iran’s responsibility to find a way to meet its [nuclear agreement] commitments, whether that is by selling, diluting or disposing of future stocks of heavy water to remain within the [agreement] limit.”The deal is valued at roughly $8.6 million.
The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news, said the sale was driven by fears in Washington that Iran could not meet a July deadline to reduce the stockpile of heavy water called for under the agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The announcement of the sale Friday was met with swift condemnation from Republicans in Congress, who have long opposed the agreement.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the move is “part of what appears to be the administration’s full-court press to sweeten the deal,” and claimed that it “will directly subsidize Iran’s nuclear program.”
“Potentially providing Iran with money to support terrorism or its ballistic missile program is irresponsible,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) added in a statement. “This dangerous precedent could pave the way for either additional transactions with Iran or allow Iran to enter the U.S. financial system.
“That access was not granted in the nuclear deal and it shouldn’t be granted now.”
The nuclear deal reached by Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers last year lifts international sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors in exchange for limits on its ability to build a nuclear weapon, including demands that it reduce stockpiles of different material.
Heavy water is similar to regular tap water, though different on a chemical level.
In nuclear reactors, the heavy water is used as a coolant and allows engineers to bypass uranium enrichment activities to produce plutonium. The material can also be used for variety of research, medical and other purposes.
“This heavy water purchase will help meet market demand in the United States, fulfilling a substantial portion of the United States’ domestic industry and research needs for the year, while also contributing to the administration’s nuclear nonproliferation efforts,” the Energy Department spokesman said.
The material will likely be resold to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, among other clients, the official added.
Sanctions were lifted under the agreement earlier this year, but Iran has complained that financial and other instruments were still being used to block companies from rushing in. Despite the lifting of international sanctions, most U.S. businesses remain barred from doing business in Iran.
President Obama has chided the comments from Iran, claiming that the country’s continued ballistic missile testing and aggressive posture are to blame for its continued financial troubles.
— Updated at 11:45 a.m.