The Daily Beast's Josh Rogin asked State Department Press Secretary Jen Psaki Tuesday if it was still the United States position that Iran had the intent to develop a nuclear weapons program.
Psaki responded by saying “If we didn't think that was the plan, we wouldn't be having this conversation with the international community now about how to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”
Below is a transcript of the exchange:
Q: Do you believe that Iran currently has a nuclear weapons program?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we believe they are building toward that. We certainly have seen — I know the secretary has talked about, you know, development at Fordo and other facilities, and certainly that's our concern, and we're concerned about where it's headed. Otherwise we wouldn't be talking about this now.
Q: So you believe they have the intent to build — to develop a nuclear weapon?
MS. PSAKI: If we didn't believe there was the potential intent, I don't think we would —
Q: Not potential intent, the actual intent.
MS. PSAKI: Well, there's been — if there wasn't concern about it, Josh, we wouldn't be talking about it now.
Q: So you're not a hundred percent sure there — that —
MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to play this word game with you.
Q: It's not a word game.
MS. PSAKI: I think if we didn't think that Iran had plans to, had potential intention to, we wouldn't be having this conversation now.
Q: Because previous Cabinet-level officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said many times they believe that Iran intends and is pursuing a nuclear weapon. So now you're saying there is a potential intent — (inaudible) —
MS. PSAKI: I'm not changing our position. If we didn't think that was the plan, we wouldn't be having this conversation with the international community now about how to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Q: OK, so I just want to be clear. So you believe that they intend to build their nuclear weapon, not that there's potential or there's concern about it — (inaudible) —
MS. PSAKI: That has been the long history there. If we didn't think there was an opening for a different path, we wouldn't be pursuing it now.
Q: So based on that belief, then, the statements by the Iranian president and foreign minister this week were not truthful, right? They said they have no intent.
MS. PSAKI: Josh, what we said last week — and I'm happy to repeat — is that we saw a different kind of presentation, a different kind of proposal last week. We see an opening, but they need to back up their words with actions. So we will see what proposal they come with in the next two weeks. This is perhaps the best diplomatic opening we've had in some time, and that's why we're pursuing it, and we'll see where it lands.