The White House is currently examining ways to enable Iran to have its own “domestic” uranium enrichment program, a senior Obama administration official has told the Washington Free Beacon.
According to Tuesday’s report, as the details of a six month interim nuclear deal between Iran and Western nations are hashed out, the White House is exploring the practicality of permitting Iran to continue certain enrichment activities.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has repeatedly stressed that Iran will not give up on its right to enrich uranium, though he said at one point that Iran would not insist that others recognize this right.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has previously indicated that the issue of whether Iran will ultimately be allowed to enrich uranium will not be decided in the interim deal and would be worked out for the final deal.
“Over the next six months, we will explore, in practical terms, whether and how Iran might end up with a limited, tightly constrained, and intensively monitored civilian nuclear program, including domestic enrichment,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told the Washington Free Beacon.
“Any such program,” she said, “would be subject to strict and verifiable curbs on its capacity and stockpiles of enriched uranium for a significant number of years and tied to practical energy needs that will remain minimal for years to come.”
The White House clarified its openness to a limited Iranian enrichment program just days after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised to “forge ahead” with the country’s controversial nuclear program.
Rouhani stated over the weekend that Iran’s contested enrichment program would “never stop” despite the regime’s promise to eventually halt most nuclear activities for a period of six months under an interim agreement inked two weeks ago in Geneva.
In fact, he also announced that Iran would be building a second nuclear power plant in Bushehr.
Iran’s right to enrich uranium, the key component in a nuclear bomb, had been a key sticking point in Geneva. Many in Congress say that Iran should be forced to dismantle its entire nuclear program and be prohibited from all enrichment activities.
Asked about Rouhani’s promise to continue enriching uranium, Hayden told the Free Beacon that “the United States does not recognize that Iran has a ‘right to enrich.’”
However, she said, “The Iranian people should have access to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”
Congressional critics have lambasted the White House in recent days for approving a deal that they say would allow the Iranians to continue their most controversial nuclear activities.
“Providing Iran with sanctions relief without dismantling their nuclear weapons program was a colossal mistake,” Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.) told the Free Beacon on Tuesday.
“The Obama administration bargained away America’s greatest pressure point on Iran in exchange for empty promises and cosmetic concessions,” charged Roskam, who has led a push in the House to enact more stringent sanctions on Iran.
“It’s no surprise the Iranian regime is already taking a victory lap, proudly trumpeting its right to enrich uranium and maintain nuclear infrastructure under the agreement,” he said.
Others demanded that the White House explain why Iran can be trusted to continue its enrichment activities given the regime’s past efforts to deceive the world and obfuscate its weapons program
The Obama administration, meanwhile, has done everything in its power to dissuade lawmakers from passing new sanctions on Iran.
On Tuesday, the White House warned Congress that passing new sanctions, even with a delayed launch date, would give Iran an excuse to undermine the interim deal.
The administration has been pushing the senators to hold off on passing any new sanctions, sending top officials such as Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry to convince them not to follow through with the legislation.
President Barack Obama himself recently issued a public warning to Congress, saying that a deal in the works could prevent the "unintended consequences" of war.