Department Press Briefing – December 20, 2022

December 21, 2022


Ned Price

Author's Title: 

Department Spokesperson


QUESTION: Can I ask Iran deal related question —


QUESTION: — really quickly? A White House official told our colleague from Al Arabiya at the White House that currently the deal really does not garner any importance or not important at all. So I want to ask you on the importance scale of 1 to 10, where do you put the importance going back to the deal at this point, or are you going to pull the plug on the deal – on the process?

MR PRICE: Look, Said, we’ve made the point for several months now that the JCPOA is not on the agenda. It hasn’t been on the agenda for some time. Of course, there have been instances where we thought we are on the precipice of a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA, only to find the Iranians turning their backs on a deal that was on the table, a deal that had otherwise been approved by all. So it hasn’t been on the agenda for us for months. It hasn’t been our focus. Since September, certainly our focus has been on standing up for the fundamental freedoms of the Iranian people and countering Iran’s deepening military partnership with Russia and its support for Russia as Moscow wages its brutal invasion of Ukraine.


QUESTION: So you declare it dead?

MR PRICE: I’m sorry.

QUESTION: So you declared the deal – agreement dead already?

MR PRICE: It is certainly the case that the Iranian —

QUESTION: In a coma or what?

MR PRICE: It is certainly the case that the Iranians killed the opportunity for a swift return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA. They killed that opportunity for a swift return to compliance most recently in September when, again, we were on the precipice – we thought – of a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA. All of the other parties had agreed, but instead of putting us in a position to go forward, the Iranians reneged.

What is very much alive is the President’s commitment and this administration’s commitment that Iran is never in possession of a nuclear weapon. We continue to believe that diplomacy represents the most effective and sustainable way to achieve that goal and to see to it that Iran is verifiably and permanently barred from obtaining a nuclear weapon. At the same time though, we have an extensive toolkit. We have not removed any option from the table as well.

QUESTION: So if they return, you will return?

MR PRICE: I’m sorry.

QUESTION: If the Iranian would return —

MR PRICE: This is – it’s just a – it’s a complete hypothetical at this point. It’s not even academic because the Iranians have demonstrated time and again that they are not prepared for a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA, and they have, most recently in September, killed the opportunity for a swift return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA.


QUESTION: Just to clarify —

QUESTION: Given that —

MR PRICE: Let me move around. Abbie.

QUESTION: Given that Iranian officials have come out more vocally seeming to move towards wanting to go back to earlier discussions about a return to the deal, is the U.S. willing to re‑engage in those discussions?

MR PRICE: We’ve – we – there is a track record. These statements do not come in a vacuum. And the track record that we have seen over the past year and a half or so speaks to the fact that the Iranians have not and may not ever be in a position to move forward with a swift return to compliance with the JCPOA. Time and again, on several occasions now, we thought we were close. The rest of the world thought we were close – the E3, the other members of the P5+1 – only to have the rug pulled out from under us by the Iranians.

Despite these statements from the Iranians, what we’re focused on now are what’s happening in the streets of Iran – the bravery, the determination, the courage of the Iranian people, especially its women and girls to take to the streets to express their universal rights. And we’re also at the same time focused on what Iran is enabling Russia to do, and that’s also a primary concern of ours.

QUESTION: Just to clarify, there’s a huge difference between the deal is not on the agenda and the deal is dead. The President of the United States is on the record saying that the deal is dead, and I think that part of the story is established already. Now the question is let’s talk about the killers. So what are you going to do to hold Iranian mullah regime accountable for murdering Iranians and murdering the deal?

MR PRICE: So we have taken steps to make clear that we stand resolutely with the Iranian people, who are exercising their universal rights by taking to the streets, voicing their grievances, voicing their aspirations, as they have every single right to do. We have taken steps to enable them to do that more effectively through the general licenses that we issue that allow technology companies to provide hardware and software to the Iranian people to allow them to speak, to communicate with one another and with the outside world so that, importantly, the rest of the world can see – we can hear – precisely what is going on inside of Iran. That’s important for us. It’s important for the protesters that they be heard by the rest of the world, just as that they are demanding that they be heard by the Iranian regime.

At the same time, we have now taken – undertaken multiple rounds of sanctions against those who are responsible for the repression, who are responsible for the bloodshed, the violent crackdown, the attempts to cut off Iran from the rest of the world, the internet blackouts. We have taken now multiple rounds of sanctions. We’re always looking at additional steps we can take. We’re always looking for additional targets who may be responsible, whether that’s on human rights grounds, whether that’s on any other ground for which we have an authority to pull from.

QUESTION: A need to sanction the supreme leader of Iran, who is actually sitting atop of all this brutal regime?

MR PRICE: We are going to take the steps that we feel are within the bounds of the law and that are appropriate to support the people of Iran and to hold accountable the regime.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR PRICE: Guita.

QUESTION: Ned, you just mentioned internet blackouts, and Sunday and Monday there was total blackout – excuse me – apparently. You also mentioned the general license and everything. Are you hearing from the private sector, the technology companies if there’s room still to help the people?

MR PRICE: We are having a discussion with the private sector. It’s a discussion that’s been going on since the earliest days of these protests in Iran. We want their ideas. We do not have a monopoly on good ideas when it comes to steps we could take that would help the people of Iran fulfill their aspirations. You may recall that early on in these protests, Deputy Secretary Sherman met with a – representatives of various technology companies. We’ve continued to have discussions with technologists on additional steps we might be able to take.

But with the general license that we issued in the earliest days of this protest, it is a versatile tool in that it is self-executing. And so it provides technology companies with essentially a green light to provide their wares to the people of Iran if they themselves deem that their technology is covered by the general license. The general license is a general license rather than a specific license, meaning that it’s also broad in its scope. And so there are a number of tools and a number of capabilities that this general license authorized that previously may not have been on the table.

So if technology companies, if the private sector more broadly, if other governments have good ideas as to additional steps we could take that would enable the Iranian people to communicate with one another and with the outside world, we’re of course all ears to that and we’ll work with them on implementing them.

QUESTION: Can I ask one specifically on Iran?


QUESTION: Taraneh Alidoosti, arguably one of the best known or one of the most acclaimed actors, actresses in Iran was detained over the weekend over social media post. Do you have any reaction specifically to her arrest?

MR PRICE: We do. We condemn the arrest of Taraneh Alidoosti. Unfortunately, Ms. Alidoosti only joins the ranks of thousands of other Iranians who have been detained simply for acts of peaceful protest. Ms. Alidoosti is only the latest cultural icon to be detained, along with many other actors, journalists, students, athletes, lawyers, and human rights defenders. It’s part of the regime’s effort to sow fear and to suppress these peaceful protests. We call on Iranian authorities to cease the arbitrary detentions and to stop denying the Iranian people their fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of expression and the freedom of peaceful assembly. And the world, as we’ve been saying for some time now, will be watching how the regime treats Ms. Alidoosti and all those it has detained arbitrarily.