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China and Iran have signed a deal to modify an integral part of the latter’s nuclear program at the Arak heavy water nuclear site. The news comes just one day after the Trump administration certified that Iran has committed to its responsibilities under the nuclear agreement signed by the former Obama administration and the Iranian regime in 2015. On the same day that President Trump verified Iran’s compliance in the agreement, the Iranian Supreme Leader declared the United States an “enemy” nation.

A heavy water plant is an essential element in producing the material needed to developing a nuclear weapons program. Iran insists that the Arak reactor is purposed with producing “isotopes for cancer and other medical treatments.” However, heavy water reactors are needed to cool down reactors that churn out plutonium, which can be used to create a nuclear bomb.

The Arak plant was uncovered thanks to 2002 satellite images from the Institute for Science and International Security.

As part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed to by Iran and world powers, Iran is supposed to modify the heavy water reactor so it could not produce weapons-grade plutonium.

Whether the United States can trust China to lead the project is a matter of concern. Most geopolitical observer recognize that China views Iran as an ally and the United States as an adversary.

Moreover, China has previously helped supply the Iranian regime with nuclear material and advanced missile technology that would have been otherwise likely impossible to produce internally. Since the early 80s, the Chinese government has clandestinely and overtly helped the Mullahs develop their nuclear program.

International agencies such as the United Nations have been tasked with verifying compliance. No American inspectors are allowed on any of the Iranian nuclear sites, thanks to terms agreed to by the Obama administration. Therefore, whether or not Iran is cheating on the nuke deal is left completely to foreign bodies.

Iran has already breached the material limits used by the nuclear reactor that were imposed under the JCPOA. The IAEA, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, said Tehran exceeded the limit twice last year.

Beijing is looking forward to beginning the project. “The signing of this contract will create good conditions for substantively starting the redesign project,” said China Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang.

Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for CR. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel.

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