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National Politics

Fact check: Amy Klobuchar falsely claims Iran is ‘announcing’ it will develop a nuclear weapon

Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar made a significant false claim about Iran in a Monday appearance on “CNN Tonight with Don Lemon.”

While criticizing President Donald Trump’s decision to order the killing of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani, Klobuchar said of Iran: “They are now announcing that they’re going to start developing a nuclear weapon and move toward busting through the cap on uranium enrichment.”

Facts First: Iran continues to say that it has no plans to create a nuclear weapon. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told NPR in an interview published Tuesday: “Iran does not want a nuclear bomb, does not believe that nuclear bombs create security for anybody. And we believe it’s time for everybody to disarm rather than to arm.” Iran has consistently claimed that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

After we notified Klobuchar’s campaign that we planned to call her claim about “a nuclear weapon” false, the campaign implicitly acknowledged that she had been inaccurate.

“She meant that Iran announced that it was going to bust through the uranium enrichment caps, which were in place to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This is the better way to say it and how she has said it in the past,” said national press secretary Carlie Waibel. Waibel passed along examples of Klobuchar speaking accurately about Iran and enrichment caps without making the inaccurate claim about “a nuclear weapon.”

The second part of Klobuchar’s statement, about Iran announcing that it will breach “the cap on nuclear enrichment,” was indeed correct. The Iranian government said Sunday that it will no longer honor any of the limits on uranium enrichment that were imposed by its 2015 nuclear agreement with the United States and other countries.

(Iran began announcing it would exceed the limits in the agreement after Trump announced in 2018 that he was withdrawing the US from the agreement.)

But Iran announcing it will abandon enrichment caps is far from the same thing as Iran announcing it will pursue a nuclear weapon. Uranium can be enriched for peaceful purposes, like to fuel reactors in power plants. Zarif said this week that Iran will continue its co-operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which conducts inspections of its nuclear activities.

“Iran has set aside the limitations on its nuclear program, because the US withdrawal has turned the (nuclear agreement) into an empty shell. But it’s not dashing toward a nuclear weapon and its program is still under the most rigorous inspection regime anywhere in the world,” said Ali Vaez, director of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group, a non-governmental organization that works to prevent conflicts.

Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert and senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, also said Klobuchar’s claim was incorrect. “Iran announced the resumption of some of its nuclear activities but not the pursuit of a nuclear weapon,” he said.

Before Trump announced the US withdrawal from the agreement, the International Atomic Energy Agency had repeatedly certified that Iran was complying with its obligations. Iran’s latest move, which it described Sunday as its fifth and final step in reducing its commitments to the agreement, was to abandon limits on the “number of centrifuges.”

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