Associated Press reporter Matt Lee doesn’t stand for evasive answers from government officials.
The veteran reporter on Monday mixed it up with State Department spokesman Ned Price in a fiery exchange over whether the Biden administration lifting some sanctions against Iran benefits the Shia Islamist regime.
WATCH: Reporter calls out State Department Spokesman Ned Price for denying that Iran benefits from Biden lifting sanctions.
“Who do you think this benefits, just you?” pic.twitter.com/SjAaep8sBZ
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) February 8, 2022
Here’s the contentious exchange between Lee and Price, according to a State Department transcript:
QUESTION: Ned, are you – that long list of things that you said that these waivers give, you’re saying that there’s no benefit to Iran in any of that?
MR PRICE: I am saying that the net benefit of this is a nonproliferation benefit for us.
QUESTION: Iran gets nothing out of it?
MR PRICE: When you say sanctions waiver —
QUESTION: I’m not talking about – hold on a second.
MR PRICE: Matt, you don’t need to raise your voice. You don’t —
QUESTION: But you’re the one – you’re the one who – you guys are the ones who said you were restoring the waivers, right? Okay. So if Iran really gets no benefit at all out of this, then why even bother?
MR PRICE: Why bother? I just explained to Ben. Because if —
QUESTION: No, well, you – tell me why Iran doesn’t benefit from this.
MR PRICE: Matt, this is something that redounds —
QUESTION: You’re talking about – you’re assuming that everyone thinks that sanctions relief equals dollars —
MR PRICE: Well, that was the question.
QUESTION: — going to Iran.
MR PRICE: The question was you just waived —
MR PRICE: It was.
QUESTION: That wasn’t really the question.
MR PRICE: It was.
QUESTION: That was the way you interpreted the question.
MR PRICE: You can refer to the transcript.
QUESTION: So sanctions relief does not necessarily mean only dollar bills flying across the table into Iran – into the Iranian treasury’s coffers, does it? Or is —
MR PRICE: In this case, it will allow Iran to undertake nuclear nonproliferation and safety activities that would otherwise be proscribed.
QUESTION: Yes, which is a benefit to Iran that it was not getting before.
MR PRICE: The fact is, Matt, that what is in our nonproliferation interest can also be, in some ways, in Iran’s interest. That doesn’t change the fact that it is manifestly in our interest.
QUESTION: Do they – so do they get a benefit of —
MR PRICE: Matt, I was referring to the sort —
QUESTION: Do they get any benefit out of this or not?
MR PRICE: It is – some of these steps redound to their interest.
QUESTION: Do they get any benefit or not?
MR PRICE: This is in our interest to do, which is precisely why the last —
QUESTION: Is it in Iran’s interest as well?
MR PRICE: — which is why the last administration did it. In 2018, Secretary Pompeo, as I quoted before, said precisely this decision will help reduce proliferation —
QUESTION: And two years later – and two years later when he rescinded the waivers, he said that – he accused of Iran of taking – of participating in nuclear blackmail and said that they weren’t – that they weren’t deserving of the benefits that accrue to them under this.
You’re stuck on this idea that – and interesting that you used the word “enrich” because I think you’re talking about it in terms of money, but enrichment obviously has a different kind of meaning when it comes to Iran. But I don’t understand how you can say that Iran gets no benefit and that this isn’t some kind of sanctions relief that you – that the administration has offered to Iran before it has made any of its own concessions.
MR PRICE: Matt, the question I was responding to took this in a vein —
QUESTION: Okay. Well, then, forget about the question you were —
MR PRICE: Yeah.
QUESTION: — you think you were responding to. Answer my question: Does Iran benefit at all from the waivers that were signed?
MR PRICE: You will need to ask the Iranian Government whether they think this is a benefit to them. We know —
QUESTION: Well, who do you think this benefits? Just you?
MR PRICE: We know this is of benefit to us. The ability of third-party entities to work on nuclear nonproliferation projects —
QUESTION: Okay, I’m sorry, now is the U.S. —
MR PRICE: — and nuclear safety projects in Iran in the face of our growing concerns, nonproliferation and nuclear safety concerns – that is in our benefit, yes.
QUESTION: The people that this benefits, in fact, are actually Russian, Chinese, European companies, right? Is that what you’re saying?
MR PRICE: Matt, I am saying that it is manifestly to our advantage —
QUESTION: And not Iran’s?
MR PRICE: It benefits us to —
QUESTION: Okay. Well, if you can argue that —
MR PRICE: — be able to address nuclear safety and nuclear nonproliferation concerns on Iran.
QUESTION: If you’re able to argue that Iran gets no benefit out of this successfully, which you haven’t convinced me of, but anyway – but if you’re able to, then good on you.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent, and ran the Drudge Report from 2010 to 2015. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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