National Security

Senator seeks to block Obama from buying Iran’s nuclear material

A Republican senator is trying to block the Obama administration from buying nuclear materials from Iran.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) this week filed an amendment to an energy and water appropriations bill that would bar the government from using federal funds to buy Iran’s heavy water, which can be used in nuclear reactors.

“It seems the president will go to any lengths to protect his nuclear deal,” Cotton said in a statement. “We’ve given the terror-sponsoring Iranian regime enough concessions at the risk of our security; we should not further subsidize its enrichment activity by making repeated purchases of this material.”

{mosads}The measure is not scheduled to come up for a vote, and it is unclear whether it will hit the Senate floor before lawmakers take up the underlying appropriations bill on Wednesday.

Yet the move by Cotton underscores the lingering anger over the Obama administration’s dealings with Iran following President Obama’s nuclear pact with the country.

On Friday, the Energy Department announced it would spend roughly $8.6 million to buy 32 tons of heavy water from Iran, which signaled that other countries should feel free to follow suit.

The department has said that the heavy water — which can be used as a coolant for some nuclear activities but also has other applications — will be resold to research and other organizations in the United States. 

The announced purchase came as Iran was staring down a July deadline to reduce its stockpile of the material under the international nuclear accord, and analysts worried it would not meet its obligation. The nuclear pact, which was implemented earlier this year, lifts sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on its ability to build a nuclear weapon.

“Part of the prescribed steps that they had to take was to reduce their nuclear stockpile, and that involved reducing their technological nuclear capabilities,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Tuesday. “Iran did have to ship a bunch of its heavy water out of the country and that’s what they have done, and now they’re selling off the stockpile and the United States has purchased some of it.”

Earnest appeared to take an extra shot at Cotton, who previously earned the administration’s ire by authoring a letter to Iran trying to undermine the agreement last year.

“I would suggest that if he has genuine concerns about this, maybe he can just write another letter to the supreme leader and see how far that gets him,” the spokesman quipped.

The administration has claimed the purchase will not be a permanent arrangement.  

“I know of no intention to keep doing this on a recurring basis,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday.

–This report was updated at 1:49 p.m.

Tags Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Tom Cotton

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