Iran eyes nuclear-powered ships in retaliation to U.S. sanctions

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ordered the country’s scientists to begin preparations to develop nuclear-powered ships after the U.S. Congress voted to renew sanctions against Iran, which Iran considers to be a violation of the nuclear deal.

Rouhani, in a message sent to the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI), ordered scientists to begin planning for the design and development of nuclear propulsion systems as well as fuel for use in maritime transportation.

The president, who described the nuclear activity as a “peaceful” program, requested planning and a schedule for production to be completed within three months. He also ordered Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to initiate international legal proceedings over the alleged U.S. violation.

Tuesday’s orders come less than two weeks after the U.S. Congress passed a bill that approves a 10-year extension of economic sanctions against Iran. The bill cites the country’s nuclear program, its ballistic missile testing and the human rights situation.

The White House has called the extension unnecessary but said President Barack Obama will sign the bill, noting that the legislation includes a provision that allows the Secretary of State to waive nuclear-related sanctions in accordance with the nuclear deal.

“That’s something we’ve been doing since implementation day, and that’s something we’ll continue to do under our obligations of the deal as long as Iran keeps up its end of the deal as well,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said earlier this month, adding that U.S. sanctions which are not related to Iran’s nuclear program will continue.

Despite that, the Iranian government considers the extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) to be a violation of the nuclear deal. That agreement allowed world powers to lift nuclear-related sanctions against Iran after the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran had complied with the terms of the deal.

The future of the nuclear deal is uncertain since businessman Donald Trump was elected to become president of the United States. Trump said during his campaign for the White House that he would “renegotiate” the deal with Iran, though it remains unclear what he will do when he takes office on January 20.

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