By David Daoud
“Open confusion” reigned today at the State Department after spokeswoman Marie Harf tried to withdraw a quote from President Barack Obama regarding Iran’s nuclear breakout time, advocacy group The Israel Project said.
In the interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep, the President acknowledged that, after year 13, the current deal being worked out with Iran would not provide the international community with the promised 1-year warning should Iran decide to violate the deal and go for a nuclear weapon.
The President said that, “in year 13, 14, 15″ of the deal, “they have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point, the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero,” and that the assurances of a 1-year warning time would be available to the international community for “at least well over a decade. And then in years 13 and 14, it is possible that those breakout times would have been much shorter.”
The Israel Project noted that “under that scenario there will be no way to physically prevent them from building a nuclear weapon, and they would be able to go nuclear at will.”
In the State Department’s attempted response to queries about the President’s statement on Tuesday, Spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters that the President was talking about a hypothetical sscneario in which the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) had not been enacted.
Harf asserted that while the President’s words “were a little mixed up there,” he was in fact “referring to a scenario in which there was no deal,” adding that the President’s scenario was “more of a hypothetical, ‘well look, without a deal, this is what could possibly happen.’ He was not indicating what would happen under an agreement in those years.”
The Israel Project outright rejected Harf’s explanation noting that the President wasn’t muddled, as Harf asserted, but was responding to a question about whether the deal with Iran was worthwhile given the concessions on Iran’s stockpile, “he dismissed the stockpile concern, then said the ‘more relevant fear’ had to do with the sunset provisions that would allow Iran to have a zero breakout time after year 13. There’s no room for reinterpretation there.”
The group offered their own understanding of the President’s words, saying, “He said that right now the Iranians have a 3 month breakout time, the deal extends that breakout time to a 1 year [time period] for the next 13 years, at which point the breakout time shrinks to zero,” adding that the President then acknowledged “the cost of the purchase was steep – a breakout time of zero after 13 years – but said at least transparency measures will have allowed us to develop a picture of the Iranian program.”
The group added, “The State Department will need to come up with a new spin on the President’s comments. Otherwise they’re going to get accused of blatantly trying to gaslight reporters.”
The discussion at the State Department was initiated by Associated Press reporter Matt Lee who described Obama’s interview as “a rather unusual sales job” on the nuclear deal.
Lee then pointed out that under a scenario with a breakout time of zero, the transparency measures will at best allow the world to watch the Iranians as they build nuclear weapons.
The Israel Project said that “Lee might have added that the President himself said in the NPR interview that the Iranian regime is unlikely to change, either in general or in its commitment to the eradication of Israel.”
The discussion was then cut short when a power outage hit the area.
Watch a video of Harf’s comments below (o9:03):