The reactor building at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran. Photo: Majid Asgaripour/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration last week renewed 5 of 7 sanctions waivers to continue permitting international civil nuclear cooperation with Iran — a selective approach that appears to acknowledge concerns of European allies.

Why it matters: Keeping most waivers in place risks signaling irresolution on the part of an administration that has made “maximum pressure” against the Islamic Republic a centerpiece of its foreign policy.

Flashback: On November 5, Washington granted waivers to select nuclear projects that were envisaged by the 2015 nuclear accord. Those waivers were set to expire in early May.

Details: The waivers the administration is revoking — for exporting surplus heavy water and for exchanging excess low-enriched uranium for natural uranium — increase the costs for Tehran should it domestically overproduce either.

  • Revoking these waivers commits Washington to responding to, rather than grandfathering in, future Iranian violations.
  • Washington is also circumscribing international efforts to further develop Iran’s nuclear program at the Bushehr nuclear power plant.

Yes, but: At least 2 waivers the administration renewed could be seen as validating the regime’s claim that its nuclear program was purely peaceful.

  • Keeping open Fordow, an underground facility once part of Iran’s illicit enrichment plans, reflects Iran’s negotiating successes with parties to the nuclear deal that had wanted to shutter it.
  • Waiving sanctions on Arak undercuts, rather than reinforces, nonproliferation norms. Iranian officials have bragged about offsetting restrictions on the facility through illicit procurement of components they had to destroy.

What to watch: The length of the waivers was cut from 180 days to 90. A shorter timeline will likely bring these facilities and projects under closer and more frequent scrutiny. This affords Washington additional opportunities to consolidate the various tracks of its Iran policy, especially as Tehran is reportedly set to limit its adherence to the nuclear deal.

Behnam Ben Taleblu is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Science

Texas and Louisiana face fresh flood threat from Tropical Storm Beta

Tropical Storm Beta slowly approaching the Texas coast on Monday. Photo: National Weather Service/Twitter

Tropical Storm Beta was dumping heavy rains over Texas as it churned its way inland overnight, bringing the risk of "life-threatening storm surge" and flooding to parts of the state and Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center said.

What's happening: The slow-moving storm was causing coastal flooding along areas including the bays near Houston and Galveston in Texas Monday, per the National Weather Service. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) made a disaster declaration and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) declared a state of emergency Monday.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 31,328,238 — Total deaths: 964,839— Total recoveries: 21,503,496Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 6,857,967 — Total deaths: 199,884 — Total recoveries: 2,615,949 — Total tests: 95,841,281Map.
  3. Health: CDC says it mistakenly published guidance about COVID-19 spreading through air.
  4. Media: Conservative blogger who spread COVID-19 misinformation worked for Fauci's agency.
  5. Politics: House Democrats file legislation to fund government through Dec. 11.
  6. World: U.K. upgrades COVID alert level as Europe sees worrying rise in infections — "The Wake-Up Call" warns the West about the consequences of mishandling a pandemic.

Louisville police declare state of emergency as Breonna Taylor decision looms

A demonstrator holds up a sign of Breonna Taylor during a protest in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

The Louisville police chief declared in a memo obtained by news outlets a "state of emergency" for the department on Monday to prepare for Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron's expected announcement on the Breonna Taylor case.

Of note: Louisville has witnessed more than 115 days of protests over the police killing of Taylor, an unarmed Black woman, with calls for all the officers involved to be charged.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!