State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf insisted this morning that Iran never backed away from a key provision to send its uranium stockpile outside of the country, as reported by the New York Times, because the Islamic Republic never agreed to it in the first place.
“The export of stocks of enriched uranium is not in our program, and we do not intend sending them abroad,” senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi is quoted in the NYT speaking to Iranian media. “There is no question of sending the stocks abroad.”
“Well, unfortunately, the details in that story actually aren’t accurate,” Harf told MSNBC this morning. “Obviously stockpile and what happens to it and how Iran gets rid of it is a key part of this possible agreement we’re trying to get to. But the notion that we had some agreement, that in the last 24 hours Iran has backed away from, just is factually inaccurate. There’s never been an agreement on that. We’ve been talking with them about a couple different ways they could do it. And we’ll see if we can get to agreement in the next 24 hours or so.”
Harf said the State Department has always stressed “that all of the details of this agreement are interrelated to each other.”
“And what we have also said is that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” she said. “So on that specific issue of whether their stockpile will be shipped out to another country or will be diluted in country, we and Iran have not come to agreement on that, even tentatively. So the notion that in the last 24 hours there was some breakdown in that agreement on that issue just isn’t accurate.”
She said it wasn’t “assumed” by U.S. negotiators that Iran was in agreement with this provision.
So how is Iran going to get rid of its stockpile to push breakout time to a year, as the administration says is the goal?
“One way they can do that is shipping that overseas and another way they can do it is diluting it inside the country, as they’ve been doing under the joint plan of action. So we’ve been talking to the Iranians about what different versions of that might look like and how that might play out, but we don’t assume anything in these negotiations until we have agreement. I think people would probably agree that’s the right thing to do here,” Harf said.
Harf replied that there can “absolutely” be a deal if Iran refuses to ship its stockpile out of the country.
“. . . So we really need to see from the Iranians if they’re willing to get to yes here. We have put on the table proposals and ideas that meet our bottom lines, that should be acceptable to them, if, as they say, they only want a peaceful nuclear program. We don’t know if they can get to yes here, though.”