How State Dept.’s Harf and NY Times Got into a Twitter Spat over Iran


During a Tuesday press conference, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf accused the New York Times of “manufacturing a controversy” with its report of a 20% increase in Iranian nuclear stockpiles, an argument that has now spilled onto Twitter.

David Sanger and William Broad reported Monday that international inspectors had discovered a build-up of Iran’s enriched uranium, though it’s unclear whether this is due to a technical bottleneck or an intentional fallback in case nuclear talks fail. Either way, it occurred as negotiators attempt to orchestrate a deal requiring a significant reduction in Iran’s stockpile.

“In essence, the administration will have to convince Congress and America’s allies that Iran will shrink its stockpile by 96 percent in a matter of months after a deal is signed, even while it continues to produce new material and has demonstrated little success in reducing its current stockpile,” the Times reported.

This was “absurd,” according to Harf, who argued the State Department fully expected Iran’s nuclear stockpile to fluctuate prior to the conclusion of the deal. She less disputed the facts than the contention that the increase would “complicate” negotiations.

“Our team read that story this morning and was quite frankly perplexed because the main contentions of it are totally inaccurate,” she said, via the Free Beacon. “The notion in the story that western officials or U.S. officials involved were unaware of this issue or not understanding of what this entails is just absurd. Under the [Joint Plan of Action], Iran can fluctuate its numbers in terms of their stockpile. They can go up and down as long as at the end of fixed date they are back down below a number.”

“There are some real, serious issues we have to resolve in these talks,” Harf said. “This just isn’t one of them.”

Sanger responded on Twitter, and Harf tweetstormed right back Wednesday morning:

This ended as all things must end, in a Twitter back-and-forth with David Frum, as foretold by the prophet Daniel:

Watch Harf’s presser below, via the Free Beacon:

[Image via screengrab]

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