Karl Grills Earnest on If Iran Negotiations Will Go on for Another Round: ‘We’ll See’
Karl Grills Earnest on If Iran Negotiations Will Go on for Another Round: ‘We’ll See’ (RealClearPolitics)
JON KARL, ABC NEWS: If the March 24 deadline to get a deal with the Iranians is a bright line deadline. You know the complaint from many who are critical of the negotiation process that it will drag on and the Iranians will use this to buy time. It has already been extended before, are we through with extensions, is this a real deadline? March 24.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE: First of all, that argument is bogus. And the reason that argument is bogus is that in previous negotiations Iran has succeeded in using the cover of diplomatic negotiations to try to advance their nuclear program. But in this case, in the context of these negotiations, Iran has taken steps to roll back elements of their nuclear program. And steps to roll back elements of the program have been verified by the international community, so--
JON KARL: The enrichment in Iran continues to go on, is that correct?
JOSH EARNEST: But it is at a very low level that does not advance their efforts to build a nuclear weapon. And that is what is important. And that's why I don't think that anybody who takes a look at this with an impartial view is particularly persuaded by this notion that the Iranians somehow benefit from continuing to negotiate. They don't, they are still subject to a withering financial sanctions regime that has had a terrible toll on their economy. And they are not advancing their nuclear program. Why would they try to string out negotiations?
JON KARL: Isn't it true that there is a financial incentive? They get $4 billion per month in assets that have been frozen in the U.S. that get unfrozen? Billions of dollars every month you negotiate with Iran.
JOSH EARNEST: First of all that is money that they have already earned, but don't have access to because of the sanctions regime.
JON KARL: For very good reasons, right?
JOSH EARNEST: For very good reasons. And that represents a miniscule percentage of the sanctions regime. There is no benefit to the Iranians from stretching out these diplomatic negotiations, but let me get to your question because it is a fair one.
What's going to happen if there is no deal by March 24? And all I'd say is, we'll see.
JON KARL: You're open to extending this process past March 24?
JOSH EARNEST: I'm not willing to pre-judge the outcome at this point.