In a press briefing White House Spokesman James “Jay” Carney conducted aboard Air Force One en route to Colorado Springs, CO on Thursday, a reporter mentioned the scoop in Ha’aretz, citing Western diplomats and high level Israeli officials, that the special National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s nuclear program submitted recently to President Obama is almost a word for word copy of the Israeli intelligence assessment.
Q: Jay, did the President receive a new National Intelligence Estimate, and does it show that Iran has advanced its progress toward a nuclear weapon?
Carney: Well, you know I don’t comment on intelligence matters or intelligence reports the President may or may not have received. I can tell you that the President remains committed to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and that we are leading an international effort to impose upon Iran what even the Iranian President has identified as the most stringent sanctions ever imposed on any country. And that effort is designed to take advantage of what we believe remains to be a window of opportunity to persuade Iran through these sanctions and through diplomatic efforts to forego its nuclear weapons ambitions and live up to its international obligations.
In a separate press briefing on Thursday with acting deputy State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell, he was asked about the U.S. offering missile protection to Iran’s neighbors:
Q: There’s a report out today that the U.S. is pushing Gulf countries to create a missile shield around that area, and I wondered if you could comment on that and update us on any efforts – the Secretary has mentioned this in the past – on any efforts to work with Gulf nations to build a missile shield against Iran.
Ventrell: Well, what I would say is that the threat from ballistic missiles to our deployed forces, allies, and partners in the region is growing, and this threat is likely to increase in both volume and complexity in the coming years. The U.S. has a robust security partnership, including missile defense with our allies and partners in the Gulf and is committed to their security. The U.S. will continue to work with our partners in the Middle East to strengthen missile defense in the Persian Gulf. But of course, for any other details, I would refer you to the Department of Defense principally on this matter.
The flying White House briefing touched on Israel’s indelicate approach to news that affect the Jewish state’s life and death issues:
Q: Is the White House at all irked that what appears to be some kind of intelligence is being discussed by the Israelis publicly?
Carney: I would simply say that I won’t discuss intelligence assessments or intelligence matters. But I will discuss the fact that this President has led an effort to isolate and pressure Iran that is unprecedented, that we absolutely share Israel’s, as well as other countries’ concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. And that is why we are engaged in this concerted and unprecedented effort to bring about the change in behavior that must occur by Iran.
Q: Is there any mood to increase or step up sanctions?
Carney: Well, I think, as you know, this is a process that is ongoing and hardly a week goes by where there isn’t some development that has the effect of increasing sanctions on Iran. I think it was just last week where we announced a new round of sanctions, including of a third country bank. And we are continuing in that effort both unilaterally as the United States, but collectively with our partners.
Q: Jay, does the White House feel like the meetings that Iran is holding with Syrian allies to talk about any of the violence there are credible and a helpful part of the process of trying to seek a resolution?
Carney: No. I think there is no evidence that Iran has been playing a constructive role in Syria — in fact, quite to the contrary. There’s vast evidence that demonstrates that Iran has been engaged in an effort to prop up Assad as he brutally murders his own people.