State Dept Caught off Guard by New Report on Iran Nuclear Restraints Being Lifted

July 18, 2016

State Department spokesman Mark Toner appeared surprised Monday to learn of a new report that says key constraints on Iran’s nuclear program will be eased in just over a decade, cutting in half the time Tehran would need to build a nuclear bomb.

The Associated Press reported on the secret document Monday afternoon.

The document is the only secret text linked to last year's agreement between Iran and six foreign powers. It says that after a period between 11 to 13 years, Iran can replace its 5,060 inefficient centrifuges with up to 3,500 advanced machines.

Since those are five times as efficient, the time Iran would need to make a weapon would drop from a year to six months.

Iran says its enrichment is peaceful, but the program could be used for nuclear warheads.

A reporter asked Toner about the report during the State Department daily press briefing.

"The AP has just released a story saying that they’ve obtained a document that shows that key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program would be eased in slightly more than a decade and that these restrictions, once they’re eased, would allow Iran to make a weapon within six months as compared to a year. Any knowledge of that or response to the report?" the report asked.

Toner shook his head and said, ""Uh, no, no—I’m sorry, you said it’s an AP report based on—"

"A document that they have obtained," the reporter interjected.

"A document from—whose document I guess is my question," Toner said. "Honestly, I don’t have any reference to that. We stand by the JCPOA [the official acronym for the Iran nuclear deal] and our belief that it will continue to prevent Iran from being able to pursue any pathway to obtain a nuclear weapon. And as to any alleged document, I just can’t speak to it at this point in time."

The AP report comes a few weeks after Germany’s domestic intelligence agency wrote in its annual report that Iran had tried to obtain illicit nuclear technology from inside Germany after it signed the nuclear accord with the United States and five other world powers last year.