The White House says that an Iranian ballistic missile test would not invalidate a recently signed nuclear accord meant to temporarily halt some of Iran’s most controversial nuclear work.
The White House clarified its stance just days before Iran is scheduled to launch another ballistic missile some 75 miles into the atmosphere.
The statement contradicts recent remarks indicating that such a test would in fact violate and nullify the weeks-old agreement, which provides Iran with some $7 billion in relief from economic sanctions in exchange for a partial six-month freeze of its uranium enrichment program.
A White House National Security Council (NSC) spokeswoman told PolitiFact on Friday that an Iranian missile test in the next six months would in fact "be in violation of the agreement" and that "the agreement would cease to exist."
Asked on Wednesday morning to clarify that statement in light of Iran’s intent to launch a rocket next week, a White House official said that PolitiFact got it wrong.
"That statement on ballistic missiles is incorrect," the official told the Washington Free Beacon via email. "We have reached out to PolitiFact to correct."
PolitiFact staff writer Steve Contorno did not immediately have comment on the controversy when contacted Wednesday afternoon by the Free Beacon.
Nearly five hours after the Free Beacon contacted the White House and PolitiFact about the issue, a correction was appended to Contorno's original article.
"This story has been changed to reflect a misstatement by the U.S. National Security Council on whether a missile test by Iran would 'be in violation of the agreement (with Iran). The agreement would cease to exist,'" the correction states. "After the story was published, the National Security Council asked PolitiFact to correct the record that they had meant that Iran would be forbidden from testing a nuclear warhead."
The White House confirmed that a ballistic missile test would not invalidate the deal.
"The prohibition would not include testing of a conventional ballistic missile," according to the correction.
Iran announced late Tuesday that it intends to launch another "research" rocket into space by the end of next week, according to Iran’s state-run Fars News Agency.
The rocket "will be launched next week as the next part of the plan to send living creatures into space," General Mehdi Farahi, Iran’s deputy defense minister and the head of its aerospace organization, was quoted as saying.
Iran’s space program is believed by many to be a cover for a military ballistic weapons program, which could enable it to fire a nuclear payload over great distances.
Recent U.S. intelligence reports indicate that Iran has conducted multiple tests of a space launcher believed to be cover for the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could reach the United States.
Several successful launches suggest that Iran could have the technological know-how to construct a working ICBM.
Iranian military leaders announced late last month that they had developed an "indigenous" ballistic missile technology.
"Iran is among the only three world countries enjoying an indigenous ballistic missile technology," Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the lieutenant commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), stated at the time.
Meanwhile, the White House additionally pushed back against Israeli media reports suggesting that Iran could actually be in line to receive some $20 billion in sanctions relief under the nuclear deal.
Israeli sources told Haaretz on Tuesday that Obama administration officials now "understand" that Tehran could see somewhere between $20 and $25 billion in relief.
The White House denied this is the case when approached by the Free Beacon.
"The relief the P5+1 will provide to Iran per the Joint Plan of Action is estimated to be $6-7 billion dollars," NSC spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan told the Free Beacon. "There is no change to that estimate."
Secretary of State John Kerry admitted before Congress on Tuesday that he is not sure if the sanctions relief would benefit Iran’s terrorist elements.
Asked by Rep. Matt Salmon (R., Ariz.) if he could guarantee that no money would benefit terrorist forces, Kerry said he could not.
"My prayer is that no solider will be killed as a consequence of anything Iran chooses to do," Kerry replied.