Department Press Briefing with Spokesperson Heather Nauert - September 14, 2017 (Excerpts)

September 14, 2017

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

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QUESTION: Speaking of the White House, since they have not yet, and apparently may not now, put their names to the sanctions waiver extension that were – extensions that were granted to Iran today, could you talk about that?

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MS NAUERT: Sure. So the Secretary in London today – and he made an announcement a couple hours ago in which he started talking about that. So I want to first, in case you missed it, cover some of what the Secretary had to say. And he laid that out saying – reminding us that, first of all, the Iran policy review is still underway. So while that is ongoing, we had a deadline. That was today.

“The Trump administration is continuing to review and develop its policy on Iran,” said the Secretary. It is still underway. There have been several discussions internally among the NSC, the White House, and also the State Department, but no decisions have been made just yet. He said, “I think it’s worth noting that...the administration continues” to review the JCPOA and that President Trump has “made...clear to those of us who are helping him develop this policy that we must take into account the totality of Iranian threats, not just Iran’s nuclear capabilities; that is one piece of our posture toward Iran.” And I think if one revisits the preface to the JCPOA, the preface needs – reads this – and we have talked about this here a lot – that Iran would need to contribute positively to international peace and security.

So the Secretary spoke to that a short while ago. Overall – in terms of the overall administration, we did a lot today. The administration enacted tough new Treasury sanctions against 11 entities and individuals, some of whom – or some of those entities were responsible for cyber attacks on U.S. financial institutions. The Department of Treasury has more information about those specific sanctions.

But the point is that we continue to look at some of the reckless, malign behavior of the Iranian regime. I want to continue to point that out. That’s one of the reasons that we are here talking about this. We consider it to be reckless. We consider it to be dangerous. And I think it’s always worth reminding folks just how bad that government can be – not the people, the government.

A full range of their malign activities – let’s remember what it includes: ballistic missile development; material and financial support for terrorism and also extremism, not just within their own country but around the globe; complicity in the Assad regime’s atrocities against the Syrian people; an unrelenting hostility to Israel; consistently threatening freedom of navigation, especially in the Persian Gulf – we have seen that, as our – have – have our U.S. Navy sailors; cyber attacks against the United States, ergo the sanctions today; human rights abuses; arbitrary detention of foreigners, including U.S. citizens. The Iran policy from this administration will address the totality of what the Iranian regime is doing.

I mentioned the 11 new entities that were sanctioned. In addition to that – and I know that this is what you’re most interested in perhaps, Matt – the administration did approve waivers in order to maintain some flexibility as we support on Capitol Hill and among allies and partners to address the flaws in the JCPOA and additional time to develop our policy to address the full range of Iranian malign behavior.

Now, waiving some of those sanctions should not be seen as an indication of President Trump or his administration’s position on the JCPOA, nor is the waiver giving the Iranian regime a pass on its broad range of malign behavior. Again, no decisions have been made on the final JCPOA. We still have some time for that.

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MS NAUERT: Okay. And we’ve talked here quite a bit. The JCPOA covers a certain section --

QUESTION: Right.

MS NAUERT: Okay. Of activities that Iran is responsible for, and that is to try to contain its nuclear program. If I may finish. There are a lot of things that the JCPOA does not handle, does not mention, and that is a concern of this administration that we feel is important to highlight. There have been many years in the past in which you didn’t hear a lot about the bad things that Iran has done. Many would argue that since the JCPOA was signed – and I’m not making the JCPOA responsible for this – but Iran has upped its bad behavior in many instances. We’ve seen the harassment of our sailors. We’ve seen what they’ve done in Syria. We’ve seen Hizballah going into Syria causing more problems. We’ve seen Iran continuing to supply weapons to other fighting forces.

They are doing a whole lot of bad things, and I think it’s also worth reminding the American public, folks watching, folks listening, folks who read your newspapers and publications, exactly why we are here at this point, exactly why there are concerns about the JCPOA, and why we’re looking at our Iran policy in totality. Because the fact of the matter is Iran is about a lot more – the Iranian Government, I should say, is about a lot more than this nuclear program. They’re doing a lot of bad things, and we want to address and highlight those things.

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QUESTION: I understand what you’re saying about Iran’s other behavior being – needed to be highlighted, but what do you say to those who charge that you’re moving the goal posts on the actual criteria for Iran to be in technical compliance of the actual JCPOA?

MS NAUERT: I don’t think that’s the case at all. I mean, in the preface to the JCPOA it talks about what Iran’s responsibilities are for that. And that’s why when we look at this, we say that Iran is not in compliance – not in compliance with the spirit of the law. And we’ve talked about that extensively.

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QUESTION: -- in London earlier today, the Secretary said that Iran was clearly in default of the preface – he quoted the preface of the JCPOA. So, I mean, you also were saying that the administration has not made a decision yet. Can you clear that up? Does the State Department believe that being in default of the preface of the JCPOA does not constitute being in default of the JCPOA?

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MS NAUERT: I’m not going to get ahead of where we’re going to end up standing on the JCPOA at this time. The Secretary talked about, under the JCPOA, Iran is supposed to positively contribute to regional and international peace and security. I think we’ve been clear that we believe that they’re in default of – excuse me – that they are not in compliance with the spirit of that, and I’ll just leave it at that.

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QUESTION: So how does that not constitute a determination that they’re in default?

MS NAUERT: I think he said not in default of these expectations, and he said that immediately after he spoke about how, under the JCPOA, Iran is supposed to positively contribute to regional and international peace and security. Saying that they are in default of that, because of all of the other things that they’re doing, is not inconsistent.

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