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The State Department on Tuesday was not willing to deny congressional claims that it blocked the Treasury Department from implementing new sanctions on Iran.
State Department Spokesman John Kirby sidestepped multiple questions from reporters about recent claims that the new Iran sanctions were indefinitely delayed after Iran expressed anger to Secretary of State John Kerry.
The Obama administration announced last week that it had crafted a new set of sanctions to penalize Iran for its recent test firing of ballistic missiles, action that is prohibited by United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Just hours after the White House and Treasury Department informed Congress of the new sanctions, the official announcement was halted, prompting lawmakers to blast the State Department for caving to Iranian demands.
When asked multiple times on Tuesday at a press briefing if the State Department was willing to deny these reports, Kirby balked.
“What I will tell you is there continues to be a robust interagency discussion about moving forward on sanctions for this particular program, and that’s about as far as I’m going to go,” Kirby told Associated Press reporter Matthew Lee.
“That’s not much of a denial,” Lee responded after a back-and-forth exchange. “Because I would think that if it was not true, that the Iranians said, ‘Hey wait a second, you cant put these sanctions in place,’ or you know, ‘We’ll walk from the nuclear deal,’—that you would want to, I would think that you would want to deny that.”
“There is a lengthy and involved, and appropriately so, interagency discussion about the use of sanctions, for Iran or for any other country that we impose sanctions on, and that discussion is ongoing right now,” Kirby responded, again skirting the question.
Asked again if the State Department directly intervened to stop the new sanctions from being enacted, Kirby stood at the podium in silence.
The spokesman went on to claim that the administration is willing to sanction Iran “in the future.” He also denied that Iran is responsible for shaping U.S. foreign policy.
“We don’t take sanctions advice or guidance from Iran or any other country, okay?” Kirby said. “But we do make the decisions on an interagency basis between all the appropriate agencies. It’s not about one agency or another stopping a train. It’s a constant process of interagency dialogue and discussion. But we don’t take foreign policy advice and guidance from Iran or from any other country.”