Fox News reporter James Rosen pressed State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on the stats behind Iranian nuclear enrichment Monday in the State Department press conference.
Rosen cited Secretary of State John Kerry’s statements after the Geneva deal was signed in which Kerry contended Iran’s increase in centrifuges from 164 in 2003 to the current 19,000 indicates the international community achieved the best possible agreement with the Iranians.
However, Rosen asked Psaki if she would acknowledge 70 percent of those centrifuges were installed during the Obama administration. The statistic, Rosen said, calls into question Kerry’s implication that the agreement was actually the result of Bush administration foreign policy.
Psaki replied she would have to “check on the specific numbers” and “take a closer look” at Kerry’s comments:
Q: Just to follow-up on that though, you know, Secretary Kerry, when he did his round robin of interviews after the announcement of the deal in Geneva, more than once stated that when Iran had reached out to the Bush-Cheney administration in 2003, Iran was only in possession of 164 centrifuges. Now, he would go on to say, they have 19,000. And this, therefore, represents the best possible deal that could be secured. Isn’t it a fact that since the Obama-Biden administration took office, 70 percent of Iran’s centrifuges have been installed?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d have to look at the statistics, James, but we have not questioned the fact that Iran has made progress on enrichment and on developing a nuclear weapon. We have not questioned that. That’s one of the reasons why we stepped up sanctions over the past couple of years, the president and Secretary Kerry were big proponents of that. We’ve worked with the international community to do just that, to put that necessary pressure in place.
The point I was trying to make to Roz is that it’s — what she’s asking sounds to me like two separate questions. So that was –
Q: Right. I’m pursuing the separate one part that she carved out, and that is to say — and if this is untrue I’d be grateful to be disabused of the notion — but the great bulk of Iran’s progress in the development of its enrichment program has taken place under President Obama’s watch, correct?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on the specific numbers.
Q: You’re not prepared to dispute that statement –
MS. PSAKI: Well, James, I think what we’re focused on at this point is the fact that we’re now at a point where we are halting and rolling back the progress of their program and we’re working towards a comprehensive agreement to bring an end to it.
I can’t speculate for you what would happen without — what would have happened without sanctions. I would venture to guess –
MS. PSAKI: But you — but they were being paired together, so that’s why I’m bringing it into the conversation.
Q: But the context of the question was exactly, the Obama administration says we showed up because our economy is falling apart; I am here to tell you that’s not the case; we have our own reasons for coming.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we will take a close look at his comments and we’ll have more to say about them once we do.