State Department press secretary John Kirby chided reporters today for “absolutely, completely false” coverage indicating “that there’s a change in our policy with respect to possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program or that it’s a concession about to be offered or changed.”
But the story was fed by Secretary of State John Kerry.
In a teleconference with reporters on Tuesday as he’s recuperating from a broken leg, Kerry was asked if concerns about the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program have to be “fully resolved before sanctions are eased or released or removed or suspended on Iran as part of that agreement.”
“Is that a core principle or is that also negotiable?” Michael Gordon of the New York Times asked.
“The possible military dimensions, frankly, gets distorted a little bit in some of the discussion, in that we’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another. We know what they did. We have no doubt. We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in,” Kerry replied.
“What we’re concerned about is going forward. It’s critical to us to know that going forward, those activities have been stopped, and that we can account for that in a legitimate way. That clearly is one of the requirements in our judgment for what has to be achieved in order to have a legitimate agreement. And in order to have an agreement to trigger any kind of material significant sanctions relief, we would have to have those answers.”
Kirby said today that “we’ve said we’re not looking for a confession; we’ve already made judgments about the past.”
“But the sanctions lifting will only occur as Iran takes the steps agreed, including addressing possible military dimensions,” he said. “Now, the negotiations are ongoing, and I’m not going to talk about the specifics of it. But I want to put a fork in it right now that there’s any kind of concession or change in the policy. It’s just not simply true.”
Kerry said he would go to Vienna when necessary for “what one hopes would be the closeout and should be the closeout of the negotiations with respect to the Iran nuclear program.”
The deadline for a final deal is June 30.
“Obviously, the stakes on that are very high. Our position has not changed. I’ve noticed some back-and-forth in the last few days,” he said. “But our positions have not altered one iota from what we declared both in JPOA itself as well as in my own interviews and in our discussions with people over the course of the last few months. So the talks remain tough. They’re critical. And just as I have said consistently, we’re not going to rush to an agreement for the sake of an agreement, and we’re not going to sign an agreement that we don’t believe gets the job done.”
Kirby told reporters “sanctions lifting is only going to occur as Iran meets agreed-to steps, including addressing the concerns IAEA has over possible military dimensions.”
But when pressed on whether sanctions relief is possible before the concerns over military dimensions were resolved, the spokesman said he wouldn’t negotiate from the podium.
“I think I’ve answered it as far as I’m going to answer it today,” Kirby said. “The whole reason that we’re having these negotiations and there’s a deal being worked is because we know they were working on a potential military program…What the secretary said was we’re not fixated on a single point in time.”
“I just said ad nauseum, that the IAEA’s concerns about possible military dimensions past and present, have to be fully addressed before there’s going to be a deal.”