The PJ Tatler

White House Downplays Extension of Iran Nuke Deadline: 'Not Surprising or Uncommon'

Calling it “not surprising or uncommon,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest confirmed today that Iran nuclear negotiations will extend past the June 30 deadline.

“What our negotiators are currently engaged in is an effort to try to complete negotiations consistent with the political framework that was agreed to in the first week in April. And yes, it is the day before the deadline, and at this point, I would anticipate that the negotiations will extend past the deadline,” Earnest told reporters at the daily briefing.

He noted that the deadline for the preliminary framework was March 31, but they stuck around until the April 2 announcement of an agreement.

He added that the extension of the deadline this time wasn’t necessarily a promising sign for the administration.

“I think I would accede the likelihood, or the higher likelihood, that the talks will extend past the deadline as an indication that there are still some important unresolved issues in the negotiations. And these are not issues that can be resolved in the next 36 hours,” Earnest said.

He also wouldn’t give odds for reaching a deal at this point.

“I would hesitate to put numbers on it at this point. So we’re close to the deadline and obviously our negotiators understand the stakes of these negotiations. And that, frankly, I think is why the United States and our P-5-plus-1 partners are willing to sit at that table a few extra days to try to reach an agreement that is consistent with the political framework that was agreed to back in early April,” he said.

“I mean, the thing that the president’s been very clear about is if the Iranians refuse to agree to a framework that’s consistent, or a final agreement that’s consistent with the framework that was reached in April, then there won’t be an agreement. And the — we understand at this point that that’s — that’s something that the Iranians are hoping to avoid. They would very much like to get some sanctions relief.”

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made clear that they won’t accept a deal that doesn’t lift sanctions immediately; the White House said last Wednesday that they’re “most focused on …the actions, not the words.”

Secretary of State John Kerry said, “We’re not going to be guided by or conditioned by or affected by or deterred by some tweet that is for public consumption or for domestic political consumption.”

“But there are going to be some serious commitments that they’re going to have to make in terms of that — shutting down every pathway they have to a nuclear weapon, and complying with a verification regime to ensure that they’re living up to the commitments that they have made,” Earnest said today. “And all of that is, you know, will be part of any final agreement, consistent with the political agreement that was reached back in April.”

But there’s pressure on Capitol Hill to not extend the negotiations indefinitely.

“A supreme ruler who lives by the motto ‘Death to America’ seems to be setting the tone at the negotiating table. Count me among the many in Congress who are supremely concerned by the direction of these negotiations,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said.

“Secretary Kerry needs to know that Congress has its own redlines: anywhere, anytime inspections; no sanctions relief jackpot for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps; guaranteed sanctions snap-backs; and meaningful restraints on Iran’s nuclear program that last decades. The Administration should be making it clear to the Iranians that an agreement without these conditions, among others, won’t pass muster with Congress.”

Royce warned that the administration appears “to be on the verge of an agreement that – even if it was fully adhered to by Iran – accepts that after just ten years or so, Tehran would have the ability to produce nuclear weapons in very short order, perhaps within a matter of weeks.”

“That’s without Iranian cheating,” he added. “…Mr. President, I’ll be the last one to be critical if you walk away from this negotiating table.”

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden told Fox on Sunday that “what matters is what the ayatollah says the Iranians will do with what it is we believed we have agreed on in Vienna.”

“It’s a big deal as to what the ayatollah commits himself to,” Hayden said of Kerry’s dismissal of Khamenei’s tweets. “We went through this in April when we both walked away from the talks thinking we had an agreement. It was quite different what we said they agreed to and what they said they agreed to. Now, we’re down to brass tacks. What it is they say has to be what they actually agreed to and only the ayatollah can determine that.”