U.S. Department of State Press Briefing with Spokesperson Heather Nauert (Excerpts)

October 3, 2017

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

MS NAUERT: Hi. Hi, everybody. How are you today? Good to see you.

Okay, a couple things I want to start out with, and let me thank you all for – many of you for joining us for our call this morning on Cuba. As you know – as most of you by now know – the Department of State informed the Government of Cuba today that it was ordering the departure of 15 of its officials from its embassy in Washington, D.C. That decision was made due to Cuba’s inability to protect our diplomats in Havana, as well as ensure equity in the impact of our respective operations.

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QUESTION: On Iran, would you and the State Department say, as Secretary Mattis said today, that staying in the JCPOA would be in the U.S. national interest?

MS NAUERT: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is this a position you share?

MS NAUERT: So I’m certainly familiar with what Secretary Mattis said on Capitol Hill today. Secretary Mattis, of course, one of many people who is providing expertise and counsel to the President on the issue of Iran and the JCPOA. The President is getting lots of information on that. We have about 12 days or so, I think, to make our determination for the next JCPOA guideline.

The administration looks at JCPOA as – the fault in the JCPOA as not looking at the totality of Iran’s bad behavior. Secretary Tillerson talked about that at length at the UN General Assembly. So did the President as well. We know that Iran is responsible for terror attacks. We know that Iran arms the Houthi rebels in Yemen, which leads to a more miserable failed state, awful situation in Yemen, for example. We know what they’re doing in Syria. Where you find the Iranian Government, you can often find terrible things happening in the world. This administration is very clear about highlighting that and will look at Iran in sort of its totality of all of its bad behaviors, not just the nuclear deal.

I don’t want to get ahead of the discussions that are ongoing with this – within the administration, as it pertains to Iran. The President has said he’s made he’s decision, and so I don’t want to speak on behalf of the President, and he’ll just have to make that determination when he’s ready to do so.

QUESTION: So he gave his position, but you won’t give yours?

MS NAUERT: Pardon me?

QUESTION: He gave his position, but you won’t give the position of the State Department?

MS NAUERT: And Secretary – well, no. Secretary Tillerson believes that we have not looked at the totality of Iranian – of Iran – of Iran’s bad behavior around the world. But the Secretary has talked about that quite extensively. He did at his press conference in New York during the UN, where he talked about how the JCPOA is incomplete, and that’s one of the words he used to describe it.

QUESTION: Can you think of any other countries that that description – where X is present around the world there are bad things happen – can you think of any other countries that might apply to?

MS NAUERT: I think I just – I think I just named a few, yeah.

QUESTION: You just named one.

MS NAUERT: And you can ask the families of our Beirut bombing victims back in 1983 who was responsible for that. I think that they would tell you exactly Iran is responsible for that.

QUESTION: So you’re – is --

MS NAUERT: Another one I would mention, Matt, since we’re deciding to be snarky with this --

QUESTION: Sure. I’m not being snarky. (Laughter.)

MS NAUERT: Iraq. Okay? Ask the families of U.S. military – military enlisted and officers who’ve been killed in Iraq because of Iranian militias.

QUESTION: You missed – you missed the point. I’m not – you’re saying that wherever Iran is present there are often bad things happening.

MS NAUERT: Yeah.

QUESTION: Well, there are other countries for which that kind of a statement would apply to too, wouldn’t it? Are there not?

MS NAUERT: I think Iran is a pretty good example of bad things following that regime.

QUESTION: Yes, they are. But they’re not the only – but they’re not the only ones.

MS NAUERT: Okay.

QUESTION: Anyway, on the JCPOA specifically itself --

MS NAUERT: Yes.

QUESTION: -- and Secretary Mattis’s comments, so are you saying that the JCPOA, in and itself, for the nuclear concerns is okay, but its problem is only that it doesn’t cover the other things?

MS NAUERT: We have certified that in the past.

QUESTION: Right.

MS NAUERT: We have about 12 days or so before that needs to determine --

QUESTION: But purely on the --

MS NAUERT: In the past we have --

QUESTION: Purely on the nuclear issue --

MS NAUERT: We have said in the past --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS NAUERT: -- that they complied and they received their recertification.

QUESTION: Purely on the nuclear matter though, is it okay, in your mind?

MS NAUERT: Well, we did certify the deal. We did certify the deal. And the IAEA is responsible for conducting all its inspections and all that kind of jazz. Okay? Okay.

QUESTION: Except that the Secretary has talked about their violations of the preamble of the JCPOA.

MS NAUERT: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: Except the preambles are not subject to enforcement under international law. So --

MS NAUERT: Look, there’s the whole preamble that talks about the international security and stability that Iran is supposed to contribute to, and they’re clearly not doing that. And that’s when we talk about it being in defiance of the spirit of that law.

Okay? But we’ve been over this. You know what? I’m not going to --

QUESTION: The preamble is not enforceable under international law.

MS NAUERT: You know what? I’m not – you’re not a lawyer, I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not going to get into that with you. But we’ve been clear saying this. I don’t want to beat a dead horse on this issue. We’ve talked about this again and again and again, okay?

QUESTION: Why don’t you – if the problem is this other behavior, which is very understandable --

MS NAUERT: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- why don’t you leave the JCPOA intact to deal with Iran’s nuclear issue and then develop a new set of sanctions for the other behavior?

MS NAUERT: Well, last time I checked, I’m not a national security advisor to the President, so I’m just here working on behalf of the State Department. The President will be the one who gets to make his determination, and we’ll wait for when the President is ready to do that.

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