White House version of Iran nuke deal challenged by Tehran

Our fact-challenged White House continues to insist that it negotiated a good deal with Iran to contain its nuclear program.

This is news to the Iranians who are insisting that the deal did not put any restrictions on their program, and they certainly didn't agree to "dismantle" anything, as the White House claims.


Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted Wednesday that the Obama administration mischaracterizes concessions by his side in the six-month nuclear deal with Iran, telling CNN in an exclusive interview that "we did not agree to dismantle anything."

Zarif told CNN Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto that terminology used by the White House to describe the agreement differed from the text agreed to by Iran and the other countries in the talks -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.

"The White House version both underplays the concessions and overplays Iranian commitments" under the agreement that took effect Monday, Zarif said in Davos, Switzerland, where he was attending the World Economic Forum.

As part of the accord, Iran was required to dilute its stockpile of uranium that had been enriched to 20%, well above the 5% level needed for power generation but still below the level for developing a nuclear weapon.

n addition, the deal mandated that Iran halt all enrichment above 5% and "dismantle the technical connections required to enrich above 5%," according to a White House fact sheet issued in November after the initial agreement was reached.

Zarif accused the Obama administration of creating a false impression with such language.

"The White House tries to portray it as basically a dismantling of Iran's nuclear program. That is the word they use time and again," he said, urging Sciutto to read the actual text of the agreement. "If you find a single, a single word, that even closely resembles dismantling or could be defined as dismantling in the entire text, then I would take back my comment."

He repeated that "we are not dismantling any centrifuges, we're not dismantling any equipment, we're simply not producing, not enriching over 5%."

"You don't need to over-emphasize it," Zarif said of the White House language. A separate summary sent out by the White House last week did not use the word dismantle.

In an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani echoed Zarif's statement, saying the government will not destroy existing centrifuges. However, he added: "We are ready to provide confidence that there should be no concern about Iran's program."

Most diplomatic accords have gray areas that are open to interpretation by both sides. It is understood that each side agrees to disagree about what certain language actually means. These are usually minor points of contention, and not usually a major part of a deal.

But the White House prevarications on this deal are pretty shocking. Their interpretation seems geared more to public relations to sell the deal rather than to anything the Iranians actually agreed to.

The largest discrepancy in mutual understanding is the apparent belief by the White House that Iran is going to "dismantle" some of its centrifuges that are used to enrich uranium to the 20% level. Iran denies this, which puts a whole new face on the treaty itself. There is also disagreement about whether the Iranians can continue to improve their centrifuges - making them more efficient, for example. This, too, the Iranians claim they are able to do despite White House statements to the contrary.

These are very serious discrepancies which call into question whether a permamnent agreement (this one only lasts 6 months) can be reached where both sides agree on the major points. As of now, the White House appears more eager to reach a deal for political purposes than inking an agreement that would severely restrict the Iranian efforts to build a nuclear bomb.

Politics trumps policy.