Sen. Vitter: State Dept Reinterpreted Law by Allowing Iranians to Study Nuclear Engineering at US Universities

AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman
AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman

Louisiana U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R) says the State Department has reversed its interpretation of a law that would ban Iranian students from studying advanced courses in the United States with content related to the development of nuclear capabilities.

In a press release Monday, Vitter’s office announced he is questioning the State Department on the policy to allow Iranian students to study nuclear engineering at the same time the U.S. still has economic sanctions on Iran while a nuclear agreement has yet to be resolved.

“The State Department’s position allowing Iranians to study nuclear science in the U.S. is extremely concerning, and we need some answers immediately,” Vitter said. “We currently have strict sanctions on Iran because of their nuclear threat – so training Iranians in the nuclear field at taxpayer funded U.S. colleges doesn’t add up. Universities shouldn’t be forced to make national security decisions – that’s the job of the Administration.”

As Breitbart News reported in February, the University of Massachusetts Amherst reversed its policy of prohibiting Iranian graduate students in nuclear engineering and related courses.

After consulting with the State Department, the university announced that it would drop the ban put into effect several weeks earlier and continue to allow Iranian students to enroll in graduate classes in chemical, electrical, computer, mechanical, and industrial engineering, microbiology, physics, and polymer science.

UPI reported that the university’s ban was put in place in keeping with the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 that stipulates that Iranians cannot be issued a visa to study in the United States if they plan to enter the nuclear or energy fields. The State Department, however, reportedly told NBC News that a blanket ban is a misleading interpretation of the law and that Iranian applicants to the graduate programs can be evaluated for admission on an individual basis.

In a letter to Inspector General Steve Linick at the State Department, Vitter said that, by reinterpreting U.S. law, the State Department is placing “universities into the unnecessary position of deciding whether or not to allow students from countries we currently have economic sanctions against – Iran in particular – to pursue specifically restricted material.”

Vitter is asking the IG to investigate the State Department’s position on Iranian students in these special courses of study.

“The Department of State absolutely should not be putting our educators in a position of deciding what constitutes a danger to the national security of the United States,” Vitter wrote. “That is the Administration’s job.”


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