Bushehr reactor nuclear iran
© REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi
The main nuclear reactor at Bushehr Iran, in this August 21, 2010 file photo
The US is giving foreign governments 60 days to wrap up work on Iranian nuclear facilities - 90 days for the civilian reactor in Bushehr - or face Washington's sanctions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced.

Washington has offered waivers for its sanctions against Tehran in connection with several civilian facilities since President Donald Trump unilaterally exited a nuclear deal with Iran in 2018. Now those waivers are being phased out entirely, Pompeo said on Wednesday.

European, Chinese and Russian companies working on nuclear projects in Iran will have two months to wrap up their operations or face US sanctions. The only exception is Unit 1 of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, where the waiver will be extended for 90 days "to ensure safety," the State Department said.

The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) pact had been negotiated by the Obama administration and envisioned a 10-year moratorium on most nuclear research in Iran. It was intended to prevent Tehran from developing an atomic bomb - something Israel had claimed was imminent at the time. Trump campaigned on denouncing the deal as "terrible" and pledging he would scrap it.

Comment: It's always Israel. Keep in mind that Israel has illegal nuclear weapons - Iran doesn't. Yet Iran is the one being attacked for allegedly trying to get them. Then recall that the last U.S. politicians to try to curb Israel's nuclear weapons program were the Kennedys...

Since he did so, in May 2018, Washington has systematically reimposed all the previous sanctions levied against Tehran's nuclear program and expanded the blockade to practically outlaw all commerce with Iran.

Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia - who also signed the JCPOA - did not abandon the treaty, but the reluctance of the three European countries to buck their US ally practically rendered the treaty moot.

Limiting the work at Bushehr to 90 days sets the US up for a collision course with Russia, which in 2019 signed an agreement with Tehran to build two more reactors for the power plant there, with projected completion by 2028.

Proponents of maintaining at least some kind of engagement have argued that waivers allowed outside experts to keep tabs on Iran's nuclear program and that some of the work was humanitarian in nature. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reportedly persuaded Pompeo to extend the waivers back in March, citing the Covid-19 pandemic and potential humanitarian concerns.