Department Press Briefing (Excerpts)

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson
February 9, 2021

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear
  • Missile


QUESTION: Hi. Mouhamed Elahmed with Al Jazeera Arabic. So Iran’s intelligence minister warned that Iran would seek nuclear arms if cornered by the West. So how do you respond to such threats, which is the first indication yet from Iran that it would seek obtaining nuclear arms if pressured more by the U.S. and its allies?

MR PRICE: Well, it’s not yet clear to us that Mahmoud Alavi was speaking for anyone but himself. I would say that we, of course, took note of those remarks. They are very concerning. Would also note – and I referenced this yesterday as well – that Iran has an obligation under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty – the NPT – never – never, never, never – permanent prohibition to acquire nuclear weapons, and it reaffirmed that commitment under the JCPOA. I think that’s where we’d leave our reaction.

Yes. Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have a response to the UN report saying that there has been cooperation between Iran and North Korea on ballistic missile development? And what does that – what conclusion do you draw from that about the possibility of cooperation with Iran? Are you – do you mistrust their intentions even more, given this cooperation?

MR PRICE: Well, I don’t think it really changes our strategic orientation to Iran. If the old adage is trust and verify, in this case it may be mistrust and verify. When it comes to this report, we’ve seen the press reporting, of course. We won’t comment on a UN report that has not yet been published, but it is true that we continue to use a variety of nonproliferation tools to work to prevent the further advancement of Iran’s missile program and its ability to proliferate this technology to others, including North Korea. And this includes working with our partners to stop specific shipments of equipment and technology to these programs, using our engagement in multilateral fora to raise awareness of Iran’s missile activities, and to urge countries to take steps to address these activities, and finally imposing nonproliferation sanctions pursuant to our domestic authorities against entities supporting Iran’s missile program.

That’s why we’ve also said that our goal is not only to have Iran come back into full compliance with the JCPOA, but then to use the JCPOA, which we would seek to in the first instance lengthen and strengthen, as a platform for follow-on agreements to include other areas of Iran’s malign activities. And that includes, of course, its ballistic missile program.


QUESTION: So do you actually believe that Iran is serious and is full-on on never, never, never acquiring a nuclear weapon?

MR PRICE: We know that is Iran’s obligation under the Nonproliferation Treaty. We also know, as we have discussed here, that Iran is far out of compliance with its JCPOA obligations. That is why we have continued to reiterate the point that Iran needs to resume that full compliance with its JCPOA obligations, and from there, we’ll pursue the path of diplomacy.