Report: Iran granted exemptions to nuclear accord

Story highlights

  • New report says US and international community granted Iran "secret" exemptions to nuclear deal
  • State Department officials insist Iran was in full compliance with nuclear agreement

Washington (CNN)The US and other members of the international community granted Iran exemptions to its requirements under the agreement that sought to curb its nuclear program, according to a new report by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.

The alleged granting of "secret" exemptions to Iran by the Joint Commission, the deal's implementing body, is likely to thrust the controversial accord, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), back into the political spotlight.
    The report says "most of the conditions" laid out in the agreement "were met by Iran" but it also claims Iran would have not been in compliance by January 16, 2016, the deal's so-called Implementation Day, without the exemptions to the requirement that Iran limit its stockpile of low enriched uranium to under 300-kilograms. The exemptions supposedly pertained to uranium in "waste form," according to the report, but the authors noted that that waste was potentially recoverable.
    The report's authors, David Albright and Andrea Stricker, went on to blast President Barack Obama's administration for keeping these exemptions secret.
    "Any rationale for keeping these exemptions secret appears unjustified," the report said.
    Albright told CNN that the additional low enriched uranium could reduce the amount of time needed for Iran to develop a nuclear bomb if it decided to break the accord.
    The report said another exemption allowed Iran to operate 19 "hot cells" larger than specified in the accords, larger hot cells could be used to produce plutonium, which can also be used to produce a nuclear weapon.
    "We were also worried that these exemptions or decisions by the Joint Commission set bad precedents that Iran is going to use to try and further weaken the conditions of the Iran deal," added Albright, a physicist and expert on Iran's nuclear program.
    The report's conclusions were first published by Reuters.
    The State Department pushed back Thursday on the report's findings but noted that the workings of the Joint Commission were always confidential and therefore declined to discuss specifics of the commission's work.
    "The Joint Commission has not and will not loosen any of the commitments and has not provided any exceptions that would allow Iran to retain or process material In excess of its (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) limits that it could use in a breakout scenario," State Department spokesman John Kirby said Thursday.
    "There's been no cutting of slack," he added.
    The White House also criticized the report Thursday, with spokesman Josh Earnest saying the administration had "significant objections" to it.
    "Iran is in compliance with the agreement. That's not my opinion. That's not rhetoric. That is not a conjecture. That is a fact that is verified by independent international experts who, because of the agreement, now have the kind of access that is required to verify it," Earnest said.
    Kirby said that the International Atomic Energy Agency had also confirmed that Iran was fulfilling its obligations under the deal, noting that Iran's "breakout" period for obtaining a nuclear weapon had been extended from several months to a year as a result of the deal.
    A senior State Department official offered an even more strident rebuttal, telling CNN, "The United States and its partners did not and will not allow Iran to skirt its JCPOA commitments."
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    The official said that Iran met all of its commitments on implementation day and that "Any assertion to the contrary is completely false."
    "Iran has never been over its 300 kilogram limit for low enriched uranium," the official added.
    The White House also criticized the report Thursday, with spokesman Josh Earnest saying the administration had "significant objections."
    "Iran is in compliance with the agreement. That's not my opinion. That's not rhetoric. That is not a conjecture. That is a fact that is verified by independent international experts who, because of the agreement, now have the kind of access that is required to verify it," Earnest said.
    Republicans were quick to use the report's conclusions to criticize the administration.
    "This latest report further confirms that the Obama administration has consistently misled the American people on the Iran nuclear deal," the Republican Jewish Coalition wrote in a statement.
    Albright sounded a pessimistic note on the future of the agreement during his interview with CNN.
    "The trend, in my mind, is not good. It's toward weakening the deal instead of strengthening the deal," he said.
    Iran recently announced an expansion of its civilian nuclear capabilities, saying that construction will begin on two more Russian-built nuclear reactors at the Bushehr nuclear power plant next week, according to the country's atomic energy chief quoted on state-run IRNA Wednesday.