On Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest ducked questions from an aggressive press corps on whether the administration would agree to lift an embargo on conventional weapons sales to Iran as part of a nuclear deal.
Iran would almost certainly exploit a concession on the arms embargo to pursue its agenda in the Middle East, which involves persecuting Israel and propping up the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with massive infusions of cash and oil.
"Is lifting the arms embargo on Iran on the table in the final stages of the negotiations?" ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl asked.
Earnest did not answer directly, saying instead that any deal will trade relief from "sanctions applied due to [Iran’s] nuclear program" in exchange for Iran "taking steps" to draw down its nuclear program.
Karl pressed Earnest for an answer on the arms embargo specifically.
"Is the president willing to go along with the lifting of the arms embargo?" Karl asked. "Would he go along with that under any circumstances?"
Earnest responded that he couldn’t "get into the details" of negotiations.
"You can’t say if the president would sign off on lifting the arms embargo with Iran?" Karl asked incredulously.
Earnest repeated a variation on his initial response.
Later in the briefing, CBS News’ Major Garrett followed up on Karl’s line of questioning.
"All of us are trying to translate your conversation with Jonathan, so let me try this way," Garrett said. "The administration does not believe that the arms embargo pertains to Iran’s nuclear program, therefore it is not on the table. Correct?
"I’m not saying that," Earnest responded. He said the public should withhold judgment on the nuclear deal until it is announced and the full list of U.S. concessions is known.
"So this part [of the deal] is opaque?" Garrett asked.
"I would acknowledge that there are a variety of aspects of this that are opaque," Earnest said.