In a testy exchange between Associated Press reporter Matt Lee and the State Department’s Acting Deputy Spokesman, Jeff Rathke, Lee questioned whether the Iranian regime can be trusted to adhere to the nuclear deal with world powers now under discussion in New York.
If the Iranians “routinely…[mess with] other countries in this hemisphere on agreements,” Lee asked, why does the State Department view the nuclear deal differently.
On Friday, Lee said his question was prompted by recent remarks made by Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson, in which she said that, “the involvement of Iran in the Western Hemisphere is never benign.”
She said that Iran’s efforts to infiltrate the Western Hemisphere had been blunted not only by pressure from sanctions, but because many countries in the West had become distrustful of the Iranians because they have constantly failed to live up to the agreements they have negotiated with those countries.
In response, Rathke claimed that the potential nuclear deal was different to the other agreements Iran had signed, saying, “I think that there’s a difference between the types of agreements you’re talking about.”
“What we’re talking about in the nuclear context, is first of all, a situation where there is a unified international community,” he said, “where there are international sanctions, a wide variety of them: UN sanctions, United States sanctions, European Union sanctions, as well as others that put pressure on Iran and also that make it in Iran’s interest to deal with those sanctions and to negotiate on the nuclear program.”
When pressed by Lee, Rathke declined to elaborate, saying that he was not going to “draw parallels between the kinds of agreements that may be aspirational,” or are “of a different nature from the nuclear agreement we’re negotiating.”
Lee continued with a question about the funds that would be freed up to Iran as part of the nuclear deal, and whether Iran would, in turn, use this money to increase its presence and influence in the Western Hemisphere.
Rathke responded by saying that Iran’s nuclear issue was “the priority,” because it was, “the most direct and the greatest perceived threat to deal with,” adding that there were “separate ways” to deal with Iran’s other activities, “whether it’s in regional context, whether it’s support for terrorism, and so forth.”