Iran will concede nothing. Obama will concede everything.
The most reliable and accurate reporter of what is going on at the US-Iranian talks to “prevent” Iran becoming a nuclear power is Omri Ceren. Read his reports here.
This is what went on today when an AP reporter questioned the State Department about the latest news from the scene of –
The Great Humiliation of the US at the Hands of the Mullahs of Iran
The administration is trying to move the goalpost from “the Iranians have to resolve past issues” to “the Iranians have to provide the access that could be used to resolve past issues”. And instead of trying to sell the collapse as necessary they’re trying to insist that their stance has never changed. State Department Press Office Director Jeff Rathke tried to convince the State Department press corps at today’s briefing that the Obama administration never promised lawmakers and journalists that the Iranians would have to resolve the PMD issue before they got sanctions relief.
What followed was a 10 minute back-and-forth …
The videos are here – http://www.c-span.org/video/?c4540775/state-dept-vs-associated-press-iran-disclosure-12 – and here – http://www.c-span.org/video/?c4540777/state-dept-vs-associated-press-iran-disclosure-22. There are 2 parts because at first the discussion sort of ended with Rathke telling the Associated Press’s Matthew Lee that the administration has never changed its position, but then later Lee brought the conversation back to the topic and literally read Kerry’s PBS interview out loud off his phone.
LEE: But does your unwillingness to even characterize the –you know, where the talks are and that they’re at a difficult phase with 2-1/2 weeks left, does that extend to not commenting on various reports that have come out this week and the last about concessions that the P5+1 appear to be making to Iran in terms of both sanctions relief and on the PMD issue?
RATHKE: Well, I think we’ve spoken a bit to this yesterday. But on the PMD issue, you know, we’re — we’ve seen the reports that — I think that you’re referring to. You know, I think our position on this hasn’t changed. We’ve always made clear to the Iranians that they will have to reach agreement with the IAEA on providing the necessary access to address the concerns about the possible military dimensions of their program. And without that agreement, you know, we will not be able to move forward with sanctions relief. That’s been our position throughout these negotiations.
LEE: Right. But that means — that suggests that the actual questions don’t have to be answered and the concerns resolved in order to get the deal, correct?
RATHKE: Well, again…
LEE: They only have to agree to — at some point, whatever that might be, but at some point — after an agreement is reached, to, to deal with this. Is that correct?
RATHKE: Well, the point is that Iran has to provide the necessary access to the IAEA for them to address these concerns.
LEE: Yeah, but does that have to happen to get to a deal? Or can that happen after a deal?
RATHKE: Without — without — without agreement on the access, we will not — needed to resolve this, we won’t be able to reach, you know…
LEE: So if Iran agrees to give access to the sites that the IAEA wants, but doesn’t actually — but hasn’t actually given the access by June 30th, that’s still OK. Is that correct?
RATHKE: Well, there I think we’re getting into details that I will leave in the negotiating room. I think what I’m trying to convey, though, is that our — our position on the possible military dimensions issue and the necessity of Iran working with the IAEA, that position remains the same and hasn’t changed.
LEE: Is it — is it correct that there is a difference between me, if I’m Iran, saying to you: “OK, you can have access in 50 years,” and me as Iran saying, “OK, come on in now and give — and ask all the questions you want, and we’ll — we’ll address your concerns.” There’s a difference between those two, correct?
RATHKE: But the distinction you’re trying to say is 50 years versus zero?
LEE: Well, when does Iran have to give the access?
RATHKE: Again, those — those are details that…
LEE: Well, they shouldn’t be. They shoudn’t, I didn’t…
RATHKE: …in the negotiating room, and I’m not going to speak to those.
LEE: Well, but they shouldn’t be up for negotiation, because the whole idea in the JPOA was that Iran would resolve these issues in order to get to — in order to get to a comprehensive deal. And now you’re saying they don’t have to resolve them at all. All they have to do is say, “OK, at some point in the future, and we don’t know when that might be, that we’ll give access.” And giving access doesn’t mean that you’re — that the IAEA or yours — your concerns have been resolved or addressed.
RATHKE: Our position on this hasn’t changed, Matt. And you can go back and look at what we said at the time. But our position remains that, you know, it’s about the access that the IAEA needs to address our concerns.
LEE: But that’s not what it was at the beginning. At the beginning of this, it was they have to resolve the PMD issue to the satisfaction of the IAEA or there isn’t going to be a deal.
RATHKE: Again, I’m saying there’s not a — there’s not a difference.
LEE: Well, that’s a big difference between that and saying that they just have to agree to at some point down the road give access, and not even resolve the concerns.
RATHKE: Again, the…
LEE: There is a difference there. I mean, am I wrong?
RATHKE: Look, the focus is on addressing — addressing these concerns and that’s one of the issues that we’re dealing with in the negotiating room.
QUESTION: So would the IAEA first have to resolve this, well, would the deal have to include that the IAEA has resolved this already before we sign it. I mean, because if you sign the deal without that being resolved, isn’t it just something left open?
RATHKE: Again, I go back to what I said initially in response to Matt’s question. That it has consistently been our position that Iran has to reach agreement with the IAEA to provide the necessary access to address the concerns about the possible military dimensions of their program. That’s been our position throughout the negotiations. And without that agreement, you know, we’ll not be able to move forward with sanctions relief. And, you know, the — the discussions in the room, I will leave in the room. But that’s been our position and that’s — and it remains.
LEE: So it has never been the U.S. position that Iran must resolve the PMD concerns to get to an agreement. That’s never been — that’s never been a condition?
RATHKE: Look, if we want to go back and — and look at what was said at the time, again, our position on this.
LEE: I wish this wasn’t, I mean.
RATHKE: It remains the same.
LEE: It doesn’t remain the same, Jeff. It’s — it’s — it’s changed. I mean, Secretary Kerry even said that it had — they had to be resolved in order for there to be a deal.
RATHKE: You’re trying to draw a distinction between the words address and resolve.
LEE: No. You’re lowering it — you’re lowering the bar even further from address to just agree to give access to, which means, I mean, if they give access…
LEE: If they give access and the IAEA — your version now says that if they give access, the IAEA goes in and finds some huge secret bomb-making thing, that’s OK. Then — they’ve given access and that’s alright.
RATHKE: I think you were listening to what I said.
LEE: I was.
RATHKE: I said that Iran has to provide the necessary access to address the concerns about the possible military dimensions of their program.
LEE: But what if the concerns aren’t addressed? What if the access that they give doesn’t address the concerns? You’ve already got the deal, they’re already getting sanctions relief. Or are you saying that if the concerns aren’t addressed at some point down the road, then they’re not going to get the sanctions relief that they would’ve gotten for that
RATHKE: I’ve laid out our position clearly, Matt. It hasn’t changed.
LEE: Alright, well, I’m very confused, because it does seem that — that — that — that the goal posts seem to be moving.
RATHKE: No. The goal posts haven’t moved.
LEE: I want to go back to Iran and this whole PMD thing. All right. In April, the secretary was on PBS Newshour with Judy Woodruff. And she asked him: “The IAEA said for a long time that it wants Iran to disclose past PMDs. Iran is increasingly looking like it’s not prepared to do this. Is the U.S. prepared to accept that?”
Secretary Kerry: “No. They have to do it. It will be done. If there’s going to be a deal, it will be done.”
Woodruff: “Because it’s not there right now.”
Kerry: “It will be done.”
Woodruff: “So that information will be released before June 30th. It will be available?”
Secretary Kerry: “It will be part of the final agreement, it has to be.”
Now you’re saying that all they have to do is to agree to provide access at some date in the future to address that? That certainly — that’s…
RATHKE: No, that’s…
LEE: That’s a walk-back…
LEE: Or am I completely misunderstanding what the secretary said?
RATHKE: Our position remains, as Secretary Kerry outlined it, that — and, you know, as you quoted from the secretary’s…
LEE: He said there, in a response to a question, “Does Iran have to disclose its PMDs?”, in other words, do they have to address the — address the concerns or resolve the concerns, and he said, “Yes, before June 30th.” Was he wrong?
RATHKE: He said yes, that’s part of — that would have to be part of the — part of the deal.
LEE: And now you’re saying it doesn’t have to be part of the deal.
RATHKE: No, I’m not saying it’s part of the deal (sic), Matt. You’re trying to draw distinctions here where there aren’t distinctions. What Secretary Kerry in that — in that interview…
RATHKE: … is consistent with our policy…
LEE: There is no distinction between them having to open up and…
RATHKE: No, see — you’re offering your interpretation of what these words […] mean. What the secretary said in that interview, what I’ve said, and what our position’s been throughout these talks is entirely consistent.
The prevarication on the part of the State Department is so obvious and shameful that this exchange should be used as an example of “How to Slither Out of Answering a Question” in all Schools of Diplomacy from now on.