For these critics, the plans for additional nuclear power serve as another reminder that Iran is effectively being permitted to actually expand its nuclear capabilities over the long term. The construction plans and the Obama administration’s acknowledgment of them comes only weeks after it was revealed that supplementary international nuclear agreements would allow Iran to install more advanced nuclear enrichment centrifuges years before the JCPOA is set to expire.
Iran has made it clear that it has every intention of utilizing that permission to its fullest extent. Even the Iranian architects of the nuclear agreement, led by supposedly moderate President Hassan Rouhani, have participated in public commentary lauding the Iranian nuclear program and the country’s prospects for expanding upon its current capability. As the Washington Free Beacon reported on Friday, it was Rouhani himself who ordered the construction of the nuclear plants.
As it becomes increasingly apparent that the White House knew more about Iran’s long-term nuclear plans than it was willing to admit to Congress, the opponents of the deal are increasingly able to argue that the Obama administration has turned a blind eye to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear technology and know-how that could conceivable contribute to the eventual development of a nuclear weapon.
Meanwhile, many of the same critics have insisted that this is likely to be Iran’s ultimate goal. The Free Beacon quoted Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz as saying, “Secretary [of State John] Kerry seems to think that the mullahs are interested in curing cancer and civilian energy production, but their rapid progress in ballistic missile technology suggests they are far more determined to develop the nuclear weapons these projectiles are designed to deliver.”
These specific criticisms of the administration’s handling of the nuclear issue are supplemented by related criticisms of its general handling of Iran policy. For instance, even as debate ramps up around the issue of the forthcoming nuclear plants, American lawmakers continue to focus attention on the matter of a supposed ransom payment that was made for American hostages who were released from Iran around the same time as the implementation of the nuclear deal.
The Hill reported on Monday that Representative Mike Pompeo, a Kansas Republic and member of the House Intelligence Committee, had declared his plans to send a letter to the Treasury Department, seeking answers to a series of questions about the 400 million dollar cash delivery that the Obama administration insists was nothing more than the first payment toward the settlement of a longstanding debt to the nation of Iran.
The transfer naturally caught the attention of the media owing to its illicit appearance, having taken the form of stacks of Swiss francs and other foreign currency obtained by the US executive and shipped to Iran in the middle of the night. State Department officials refused to answer journalist’s queries over whether the Iranians had waited for the arrival of that money before releasing the four US hostages who had been traded for the release of seven Iranian nationals imprisoned in the US, plus the dropping of charges on 14 others.
The administration has explained, however, that this approach was necessary because existing sanctions prevent direct transfers of money from US banks to the Islamic Republic. But according to The Hill, Pompeo is not satisfied with this explanation and remains concerned that laws may have been broken. “There is a prohibition on the transfer of U.S. assets to Iran,” he explained. “And that would include indirect transfer of assets,” presumably including transfers via the foreign capital obtained for Iran in January.
The controversy surrounding the 400 million dollars will remain alive at least until Pompeo’s questions are answered, and likely even beyond that. But even in absence of this additional issue, the prisoner exchange itself would remain as a source of anxiety among the critics of Obama administration policy. This fact was highlighted anew on Monday when ABC News reported additional details regarding the case against Arash Ghahreman, one of the Iranian citizens released from US prisons in exchange for the American hostages.
The exchange was defended by White House officials partly on the basis of claims that the Iranians in question were serving sentences for the violation of sanctions that would be suspended under the JCPOA. But it is not clear that this is the full story, and in any event the ABC report indicates that whatever Ghahreman’s intentions were, there is a chance that his transfers of merchandise to the Islamic Republic would have been harmful to national security, as by providing the Iranian government with materials needed for “electronic warfare.”