As part of concessions provided in the soon-to-be-announced nuclear agreement that would ensure sanctions on both countries are withdrawn, Russia’s main state-controlled energy business is poised to cash in on a $10 billion contract to build out one of Iran’s most contentious nuclear sites.
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Rosatom, Russia’s largest energy corporation, has a $10 billion agreement with Iran’s atomic energy agency to develop Tehran’s Bushehr nuclear project, according to Russian and Iranian documentation. On Tuesday, Russia and the Biden government announced that the revised nuclear accord contains carveouts that will lift sanctions against both nations, allowing Russia to fulfil its obligations.
“We, of course, would not sanction Russian participation in nuclear projects that are part of resuming full implementation of the JCPOA,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price acknowledged the agreement, which was signed in 2015. On Tuesday, Russia’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying that “additions were made to the text of the future agreement on JCPOA restoration to ensure that all the JCPOA-related projects, [especially] with Russian participation, as well as Bushehr [nuclear power plant], are protected from negative impact of anti-Russian restrictions” by the United States and European Union.
As a result of American and European sanctions imposed in reaction to Russia’s unwarranted special military operation in Ukraine, the relaxation of these penalties will supply a crucial stream of money for Moscow’s Rosatom enterprise. The concessions to Moscow have enraged Republicans on Capitol Hill, who accuse the Biden administration of relaxing sanctions against Russia in exchange for a deal with Iran. Even while the country’s war machine sweeps through Ukraine, Moscow has functioned as the US’ principal mediator in negotiations. The Washington Free Beacon initially reported on Tuesday that a policy document floating amongst legislators reveals how the new nuclear pact will turn Russia into president Vladimir Putin’ “sanctions evasion hub.”
The administration continues, according to a State Department official who commented on the condition of anonymity to the Free Beacon “to engage with Russia on a return to full implementation of the JCPOA. As Secretary Blinken said last week, ‘Russia continues to be engaged in those efforts, and it has its own interests in ensuring that Iran is not able to acquire a nuclear weapon.'”
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The US will also “not sanction Russian participation in nuclear projects that are part of resuming full implementation of the JCPOA,” including such activity on Iran’s domestic nuclear program, according to the spokesperson. “The United States will take actions as necessary to ensure that U.S. sanctions do not apply to the implementation of JCPOA nuclear-related projects and activities by non-U.S. individuals and entities,” the official said.
“Perhaps,” the spokesman added, “it is now clear to Moscow that, as we have said publicly, the new Russia-related sanctions are unrelated to the JCPOA and should not have any impact on its implementation.”
According to Gabriel Noronha, an ex State Department special adviser for Iran under Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the nuclear deal is providing Russia with an economic lifeline, hampering Western initiatives to isolate Moscow.
“Rosatom’s projects in Iran are crucial to the company’s future financial viability—that’s exactly why we should shut them down by disrupting their foreign contracts—especially those with a regime like Iran,” Noronha said. “We’re doing the opposite. The United States should sanction Rosatom for its involvement in Russia’s war on Ukraine, but in classic fashion, we’re giving them full sanctions immunity that will stabilize Rosatom’s finances.”
As per Rosatom’s agreement with Iran, Moscow will build two units of the Bushehr nuclear power station, which will be operational in 2024 and 2026.
Iran owes Russia $500 million for previous work on the country’s nuclear program as of last year. Due to restrictions imposed by the Trump government, Russia was unable to acquire the cash because they were kept in Japanese and South Korean banks. As part of the impending nuclear accord, these sanctions will be rescinded.
In February, the Biden administration launched proactive moves to lift nuclear sanctions against Iran, Russia, and China. At the moment, the administration’s sanction exemptions were seen as an outright surrender to Iran, allowing Russia to resume its nuclear efforts in Iran.
Russia’s lead negotiator, Mikhail Ulyanov, recently endorsed the compromises made in the nuclear agreement deliberations. He claimed last week that Iran, Russia, and China collaborated in negotiations to assure that the US offers each of those countries a package of benefits.
“I am absolutely sincere in this regard. Iran got much more than it could expect,” Ulyanov said. “Much more. … Realistically speaking, Iran got more than frankly I expected, others expected. This is a matter of fact.”
Noronha cautioned that the final accord would enable Moscow gain legitimacy at a period when it should have been ostracized.
“Providing Rosatom a guaranteed $10 billion lifeline right now is just another example of how this administration is undermining all its anti-Russia rhetoric with hidden technical concessions that keep Putin and his cronies’ companies afloat,” Noronha said. “It’s got to stop.”