Diplomacy

Iran FM: White House Misleading Americans Over Interim Deal

Controversy is likely to deepen in the coming days regarding the Obama administration’s refusal to publicly release the text describing how the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) is to be implemented, after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told CNN late on Wednesday that the White House’s public description “both underplays [Western] concessions and overplays Iranian commitment.”

“Why don’t we all stick to what we agreed? Why do we need to produce different texts?” CNN correspondent Jim Sciutto asked him what the difference between the White House version of the agreement and Zarif’s was. “The terminology is different,” Zarif said. “The White House tries to portray it as basically a dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program. That is the word that they used time and again. I urge you to read the entire text. If you find a single word that even closely resembles dismantling or could be defined as dismantling in the entire text, then I will take back my comment. What Iran has agreed is not to enrich above 5 percent. We did not agree to dismantle anything.”

Zarif’s statements mark at least the second time that a top Iranian official has explicitly claimed that the administration is misleading journalists and the public regarding the details of the implementation agreement, which among other things clarifies when Iran is required to take a range of actions and to forgo so-called non-actions. Chief Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi declared last week that Iran won more latitude regarding ongoing nuclear work than the White House was publicly conceding, and that “no facility will be closed; enrichment will continue, and qualitative and nuclear research will be expanded.” Zarif’s language is a gesture toward administration positions consistently maintained in fact sheets and briefings in which officials described Iran as committing to dismantling and disconnecting various parts of its enrichment infrastructure. CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer described Zarif’s remarks as “stunning and truly provocative,” and noted that the foreign minister’s comments will “give ammunition” to calls for Congress to advance Senate legislation that would increase pressure on the Islamic republic by signaling the imposition of future sanctions should Tehran refuse to put its nuclear program beyond use for the production of nuclear weapons.

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