State Department Spokeswoman Explains Twitter Criticism of Reporters

By Meredith Dake
Posted June 4, 2015 at 10:27pm
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State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf took to Twitter Wednesday morning, criticizing a Monday New York Times article that claimed talks with Iran were being complicated by the country increasing nuclear material stockpiles. Harf spent more than 20 minutes fielding questions about Iran and the department’s view of the story. Many reporters indicated they failed to understand why the issue of increased nuclear material was not a concern. Harf contended Iran is not violating any agreements and said the United States is confident the country will decrease its inventory by the June 30 deadline. After nearly a half hour of cross-talk and overlapping questions Harf concluded there were “r eally thorny issues” being discussed in the ongoing negotiations, but said the current level of nuclear material stockpiled is ” nowhere near the top of that list.” Read the transcript of the exchange, via : All right. Let’s go to Iran. Yes? I was not here yesterday, and I understand that you — this came up yesterday. But in light of the fact that you — you… I did. … felt the need to take to social media this morning to restate your objections to yesterday’s New York Times story. I wanted to ask about it again. OK. What specific? What exactly is the problem that you see with the story? The facts of the story, what the IAEA reported, what people’s — what experts think about that, do not seem to be in question. What is the issue… Well, I think a couple of points here, and a lot of nuclear experts now have started chiming in online as well. And I, to be clear, tweeted things — exactly the things I said in the briefing yesterday. So I’m happy to go back through those again and we can — I’m sure people will have followups. There’s a couple I think notions in the story that we disagree with. One being, I think it was the second paragraph, that Western officials are unaware of why this is happening. That’s just not the case. This type of stockpile under the JPLA and the extensions can go up and down. That is perfectly acceptable, as long as at the end of the time period, which in this case is June 30th, it’s back below 7,650 kilograms. In the past, the IAEA has reported they’ve gone up and then they’ve gone down, and they’ve always met their requirement. And we fully expect they will do so in this case. That second piece is just context that wasn’t in the story. I think one of the biggest notions is it made — it insinuated strongly that they were doing something they shouldn’t be doing by raising the stockpile. That’s not accurate. Also, the notion that this is a major obstacle, a diplomatic obstacle inside the room. Talking to Undersecretary Sherman, other of our top negotiators, this isn’t. This issue, again, is perfectly acceptable. It can go up and down. What matters is that in the JCPA Iran has committed to getting down to 300 kilograms. They have already committed to doing that. How they will get there is an ongoing topic of negotiation. But, as I said yesterday, quite frankly, it’s not one of the big outstanding issues. It’s an outstanding one, but it’s not, by a any means one of the toughest. And it’s by no means a major obstacle inside the room. Yeah, I don’t think it was called an obstacle. It was called a “major obstacle” in the story. It’s more a challenge. A “major obstacle.” It was called a “major obstacle.” Let’s go through, Matt. And I was very precise in my wording. That’s what it was called. The story also called into question whether Iran’s nuclear program is frozen, based on this one fact. And it indeed is given that they have to get back to the number that they agreed to which is 7650. They can go up and down, but at the end of the day, they have to get back to that number, frozen in place at that number. So your issue is whether it’s an obstacle or a major obstacle? That it is neither. It’s not. This issue is not. Well, but it is an issue that has to be addressed No, the fact that this stockpile has gone above 7650 is not an obstacle in t