State Department OKs nuclear monitoring system for Iran

March 2, 2018

The Donald Trump administration is allowing high-tech U.S. exports to Iran that could boost international oversight of the 2015 nuclear deal, Al-Monitor reported.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan signed a waiver that allows a Maryland-based company to export broadband networks, satellite dishes and wireless equipment to Iran for stations that monitor nuclear explosions in real time. Under laws that came into force after the Iran-Iraq War, the United States restricts "dual-use" exports to Iran.

The State Department notified Congress of the move on Jan. 5, according to correspondence viewed by Al-Monitor. It is not the first time the United States has allowed exports of digital technology to Iran.

The monitoring equipment was requested by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which oversees a global ban on nuclear test explosions. Though the United States and Iran are among eight nuclear or atomic-aspiring nations that haven’t ratified the 1997 treaty, organization officials have nevertheless set up three sites in Iran to transmit explosion data back to Vienna, giving U.S. and other policymakers a live, independent channel to watch the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activity.

“It’s like an earthquake detection system — it’s going to detect a very large detonation,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. “If we think that the Iranians have somehow, someway detonated a nuclear device, we want to prove that using a data network that can show its work.”

Hughes Network Systems, the Maryland-based company contracted in October to put in place a communications backbone behind the verification sites, is tasked with transmitting explosion data between Iran and the United States. The CTBTO has certified a seismic station for use in Tehran and two more at Kerman and the western city of Shushtar, with three more sites on the way.

The waiver to provide the equipment comes as Trump faces a May 12 deadline to decide whether to stay in the 2015 nuclear agreement. In January, he extended a waiver on sanctions against Iran to keep the United States in the nuclear deal, but warned Congress and European allies that it would be the last postponement he would grant without Britain, France and Germany making “radical” changes to the pact.

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