The PJ Tatler

NYT Dares to Report on Iran's Stockpile, Harf Goes Ballistic

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf is in a Twitter battle to refute a New York Times report that Iran is growing its nuclear stockpile as the P5+1 negotiates a lucrative nuclear deal.

The story, by David Sanger and William Broad, reports on International Atomic Energy Agency findings that Tehran’s nuclear fuel increased about 20 percent over the past year and a half — “partially undercutting the Obama administration’s contention that the Iranian program had been ‘frozen’ during that period.”

“The administration will have to convince Congress and America’s allies that Iran will shrink its stockpile by 96 percent in a matter of months after a deal is signed, even while it continues to produce new material and has demonstrated little success in reducing its current stockpile,” the story continued.

Harf protested in today’s briefing that “this type of stockpile” under the Joint Plan of Action and the extensions “can go up and down.”

“That is perfectly acceptable, as long as at the end of the time period, which in this case is June 30th, it’s back below 7,650 kilograms. In the past, the IAEA has reported they’ve gone up and then they’ve gone down, and they’ve always met their requirement. And we fully expect they will do so in this case,” she told reporters.

“That second piece is just context that wasn’t in the story. I think one of the biggest notions is it made — it insinuated strongly that they were doing something they shouldn’t be doing by raising the stockpile. That’s not accurate,” Harf continued. “Also, the notion that this is a major obstacle, a diplomatic obstacle inside the room. Talking to Undersecretary Sherman, other of our top negotiators, this isn’t. This issue, again, is perfectly acceptable. It can go up and down. What matters is that in the JCPA Iran has committed to getting down to 300 kilograms. They have already committed to doing that.”

She added that “how they will get there is an ongoing topic of negotiation.”

“But, as I said yesterday, quite frankly, it’s not one of the big outstanding issues. It’s an outstanding one, but it’s not, by a any means one of the toughest. And it’s by no means a major obstacle inside the room.”

On Tuesday, Harf said she was “quite frankly perplexed because the main contentions of [the story] are totally inaccurate.”

Today’s comments came after her 12 rounds on Twitter: