The PJ Tatler

White House on Khamenei's Sanctions Red Line: Don't Listen to What They Say

The White House today downplayed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s red line on sanctions relief, with press secretary Josh Earnest telling reporters that the administration is not focused on Iran’s words.

Khamenei said yesterday that “all economic, financial & banking sanctions, either by UNSC, US Congress or administration must be lifted on same day deal is signed.”

“We are seeking a good deal, as Americans do. But by good deal we mean a fair deal while they mean a totalitarian agreement,” the Supreme Leader tweeted. “Major red lines in include accepting some restrictions, but not for 10 or 15 yrs. R&D and constructions must continue.”

Earnest said today he “would acknowledge that there continues to be some difficult challenges that have to be met in order to successfully complete an agreement along the timeframe that we have set out here.”

“That all said, what we’re most focused on are the actions, not the words. And when I say ‘actions,’ I mean both the actions of the negotiators as they sit down with the United States and our P-5-plus-1 partners, but we’ll also be very attuned to the actions of the Iranians as they implement an agreement if one can be reached,” he said.

“And that’s why central to this agreement will be Iran’s commitment to cooperate with a set of intrusive inspections to verify their compliance with the agreement. That will be — that will be central to the agreement and that is consistent with our view that what we — we’re less concerned about the words and much more concerned about the actions.”

The deadline for a final nuclear deal with Iran is June 30. Secretary of State John Kerry is heading to Vienna on Friday.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said today that Khamenei’s statements point toward a good deal being out of reach.

“France wants a deal but wants the deal to be robust, a good deal, but not a bad deal,” Fabius said at a news conference alongside Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. “A certain number of statements do not seem to go in that direction. France reaffirms that it wants a solid accord, but at the same time must stress the firmness of its positions.”

Al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia stands by France’s position.

“The Obama Administration is dropping its bottom line by the day. This morning it’s reported that Fordo will be used for isotope production. While we once demanded that this hardened mountain-top facility be shut, we are now on the verge of accepting technology there that can quickly be re-engineered for bomb-making fuel,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said in a statement.

“These continued concessions only emboldened Iran’s leaders to press for more. So much so that yesterday, Iran’s Supreme Leader essentially tore up the weak ‘framework’ agreement reached in April. No inspections on Iran’s military sites? Immediate sanctions relief? How come we are not reading about any concessions on the Iranian side? The way these negotiations are moving, it is increasingly difficult to see the administration striking a meaningful, lasting agreement that would be acceptable to Congress.”