WASHINGTON – The White House published a statement about the Iranian nuclear program on Monday night that contradicts the official position of the U.S. Intelligence community, and later changed the phrasing of the statement on its website. The statement, attributed to U.S. President Donald Trump's press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, included a sentence saying that currently "Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people."
This statement contradicts prior assessments by the U.S. Intelligence community that as of now, Iran has suspended its nuclear program, due to its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal. While Trump has strongly criticized that deal for failing to address Iran's aggression across the Middle East and its ballistic missiles program, the administration has so far not officially accused Iran of continuing to build a nuclear weapon, something which would consist of a direct violation of the agreement.
The White House statement, which came in response to a press conference by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Iran's nuclear program prior to the signing for the nuclear deal, seemed to offer a different position on the current state of the nuclear program in Iran. However, shortly after the statement came out, the White House uploaded a revised version of the text to its website, changing the word "has" to "had," so that the statement would be in line with the official intelligence assessments.
As a result, the statement currently says that "Iran had a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people." The White House said the original version was a spelling mistake, and not a sign of a new policy. With that said, however, the events of the last 24 hours seem to have increased the likelihood of a decision by Trump to scrap the nuclear deal.
Trump's new Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, released his own statement on the document presented by Netanyahu on Monday night. Unlike the original White House statement, Pompeo clearly said that "the documents show that Iran had a secret nuclear weapons program for years. Iran sought to develop nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems." He also said that he "personally reviewed many of the Iranian files" presented by Netanyahu.
Pompeo added that the administration is "assessing what the discovery of Iran’s secret nuclear files means for the future" of the nuclear deal. "Why exactly was Iran hiding half a ton of nuclear weaponization files while implementing the Iran deal?" Pompeo asked. "It is worth recalling that from 2006-2015, Iran was prohibited by Security Council resolutions from enriching any nuclear material. Now that the world knows Iran has lied and is still lying, it is time to revisit the question of whether Iran can be trusted to enrich or control any nuclear material."
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