State Department spokesman John Kirby confused the press and dodged multiple issues involving the Iran nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, during Thursday’s press briefing.
The briefing came after a report was published saying the United States and other signatories to the nuclear accord granted Iran secret exemptions to ensure Tehran could meet its obligations by the Jan. 16 deadline to receive sanctions relief.
"I don’t want to play semantics with you, but I am concerned that I ask you a question of whether or not the Joint Commission has enacted any exemptions for Iran, or anything that a reasonable observer would conclude to be an exemption, and by way of answering, you talk about the loosening of commitments, and so I just wonder if you could address my question on its own terms?" Fox News correspondent James Rosen asked.
"I’m not going to talk about the work of the Joint Commission, James," Kirby said. "I’m not going to do that, and I can’t do that because by the agreement itself, it’s confidential."
"What I can assure you and everyone else is that there has been no loosening of Iran’s commitments, and there have been no exceptions given that would allow them to exceed the [deal’s] limits," Kirby added.
Later another reporter, Arshad Mohammed of Reuters, questioned Kirby further about what Rosen asking.
"As James points out, every time he asks you about exemptions and whether or not the Joint Commission has issued any exemptions, you say there’s no loosening and they did not provide any exceptions," Mohammed said. "Did they provide any exemptions?"
"What I can tell you is the work of the Joint Commission is confidential and I’m not purview to it as I shouldn’t be, and even if I was, I wouldn’t be allowed be at liberty to discuss it," Kirby said. "What I can assure you of is the same thing I assured your colleague of, is that there’s been no loosening of the commitments and Iran has not and will not under the JCPOA be allowed to exceed the limits that are spelled out in the JCPOA."
"So, just for the last time, you’re not going to address the question of whether or not exemptions were issued?" Mohammed asked.
"I’m not going to address the work of the Joint Commission because I can not address the work of the Joint Commission," Kirby said.
"Yes, you are. You’re standing there and telling us there was no loosening, there were no exceptions made," Rosen said. "So you are very materially discussing their work in those sentences, aren’t you?"
"I’m telling you what is not happening, which is Iran is not being permitted under the JCPOA to exceed it, James," Kirby said. "Look, I understand the wordplay here too, okay, and I get what you’re trying to do. But I’m not going to speak for the work of the Joint Commission and the deliberations they have worked through in order to make sure that they are properly supervising Iran and the JCPOA."
With his comments Kirby left reporters confused as to whether or not the Joint Commission, the entity created by the nuclear deal to oversee its implementation, has issued specific exemptions to Iran regarding its nuclear program.