The White House continued to downplay public statements Iranian officials have made in recent weeks that appear to undermine the nuclear agreement Tehran has made with the U.S. and other world powers.
The latest came from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Wednesday. Zarif told CNN that the Obama administration is mischaracterizing concessions his side has made in the six-month nuclear deal, saying Tehran “did not agree to dismantle anything.”
"The White House version both underplays the concessions and overplays Iranian commitments" under the agreement that took effect Monday, Zarif said in an interview with CNN that took place in Davos, Switzerland, where he was attending the World Economic Forum.
President Obama's press secretary Jay Carney cast those comments as part of the “spin” Iranian officials are using to sell the deal to their citizens, insisting that the U.S. and the five other world powers will evaluate whether Tehran complies with all the components of the deal instead of what they say publicly.
“We've said before that we've expected the Iranian government to spin the agreements they've made for domestic political purposes,” Carney told reporters Thursday. “We've seen it before and we're seeing it again.”
“This is all about what they do, not what they say,” he added.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the world body charged with inspecting Iran's compliance with the accord, on Monday said that Iran had fulfilled initial steps it committed to before the Jan. 20 start date. In exchange the U.S. and other international partners provided the first installment of sanctions relief – $550 million dollars.
Over the next six months, if Iran complies with all the deal's deadlines, Iran will receive a total of $4.2 billion in direct sanctions relief.
Under the deal, Iran is required to dilute its stockpile of uranium that has been enriched to 20 percent and halt all enrichment above 5 percent, the level needed for power generation but far below that required to make a nuclear weapon.
Carney said the deal goes a long way in “halting progress” on Iran's nuclear program and “rolling it back in key respects.”
“We have worked on introducing unprecedented transparency into Iran's nuclear program while we work on a comprehensive agreement,” he said.
He also said said the “modest changes to sanctions that have been made as a part of this agreement work like a spigot – they don't come all at once and could be reversed.”
The U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China first forged the six-month deal back in late November. It is aimed at reaching a more long-term comprehensive solution that will go further in dismantling the physical components of Iran's nuclear program.
Earlier this week, the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington think tank, said Iran has 20,000 centrifuges and would need to reduce that number to 4,000 to demonstrate to the international community that its program is only intended for energy purposes.
In order to fully disable its weapons capability, the report said Iran also would need to shut down an underground uranium-enrichment site, convert a heavy-water reactor and agree to a 20-year inspections regime.