Biden administration may allow Russia to buy Iran's excess enriched uranium under new nuclear deal

Nuclear negotiations continue amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine

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The Biden administration is considering allowing Russia to buy Iran's excess enriched uranium under the terms of a new nuclear deal, U.S. officials said this week. 

Under the original Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPO) in 2015, Russia agreed to buy Iran's excess uranium so that the regime could not build a nuclear weapon, a role that may be revived in the new deal.

"Would it be a practical role for Russia to play the same role that it did in the JCPOA prior to the decision to withdraw from it, essentially to accept and to pay for the highly enriched uranium to get it out of Iran’s hands so that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon? I think that’s a role we’d be willing to entertain. Yes," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Wednesday. 

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan also said this week that Russia's role in purchasing Iran's excess uranium was a "key part of how we ensured that Iran’s nuclear program was in a box."

"Now, we don’t have to rely on any given country for any particular element of the deal, but that is a role that Russia played in the past — a practical role that didn’t have necessarily political significance but did have that practical significance," Sullivan said. 

STATE DEPT SAYS IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL WILL NOT BE AN 'ESCAPE HATCH' FOR RUSSIAN SANCTIONS

Terms of the new nuclear deal were near completion earlier this month before Russia threw a wrench in the negotiations, demanding that Russia's trade with Iran is unaffected by Western sanctions over the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine. 

This file photo released Nov. 5, 2019, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, shows centrifuge machines in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran. 

This file photo released Nov. 5, 2019, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, shows centrifuge machines in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran.  (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP, File))

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have spoken out against Russia's role in the new deal. 

"The Iranian nuclear deal would give Iran a pathway to a nuclear weapon and billions of dollars in sanctions relief.  Russia is leading the negotiations and would benefit from any new agreement," Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., tweeted this week. "The US should stop attempting to resurrect this bad deal."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during their meeting in Qingdao, China, Saturday, June 9, 2018.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during their meeting in Qingdao, China, Saturday, June 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

"I don’t think Russia is at the table in a legitimate or honest way. I think they are looking at ways to get around the sanctions," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., told Fox News's Bret Baier. "I think we have to be very careful in not negotiating against ourselves, especially with what Russia is doing against Ukraine." 

The negotiations for a new nuclear deal come as Russian forces continue their invasion of Ukraine, raising fears about a potential nuclear strike by an increasingly frustrated Putin. 

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this week in an interview with CNN that Russia would use nuclear weapons in response to "an existential threat for our country."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.