White House: Iran's nuclear marine vessels don't violate deal

White House downplays Iranian President's directive to local scientists to develop systems for nuclear-powered marine vessels.

Elad Benari ,

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest

The White House on Tuesday downplayed a directive from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to local scientists to start developing systems for nuclear-powered marine vessels.

Rouhani’s order came earlier on Tuesday in response to what he termed the United States’ violation of the nuclear deal between his country and world powers.

Rouhani's move is a response to the overwhelming votes of both houses of Congress in favor of extending the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) in November and December.

But while White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Washington was aware of Iran's order, he claimed that the move is not a violation of Iran's commitments under the nuclear deal.

"The announcement from the Iranians today does not run counter to the international agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Earnest told a news briefing, according to Reuters.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United States was confident the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which inspects Iran's nuclear sites, would be able to analyze Iran's compliance with the deal.

"There's a lot we don't know about it, what it means," Kirby said, referring to Rouhani's announcement, according to Reuters. A marine nuclear propulsion program is a "massive undertaking for any nation" and would likely take decades to realize, he added.

Iranian leaders have reacted angrily to American lawmakers’ passing of the bill extending sanctions on the country for 10 years while the United States says it has lifted all the sanctions it needs to under the July 2015 deal between major powers and Iran.

Rouhani’s directive came several days after Iranian lawmakers threatened to pass legislation to resume the country’s nuclear activities response to Congress extending the sanctions.

Rouhani has demanded that President Barack Obama not sign an extension of the U.S. sanctions on his country, saying Obama is "obliged" to let the sanctions expire.