The White House on Thursday brushed off comments by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who, in an interview, accused the Obama administration of overstating the concessions they had gained from Tehran in a six-month nuclear deal.
"How Iranian officials characterize this for a domestic audience matters far less to us than what they're actually doing," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday.
"The White House tries to portray it as basically a dismantling of Iran's nuclear program. That is the word they use time and again," he continued. "If you find a single, a single word, that even closely resembles dismantling or could be defined as dismantling in the entire text, then I would take back my comment."
Under details of the plan released by the Obama administration, Iran is required to dilute any of its stockpile of uranium enriched at a level higher than the 5 percent necessary for nuclear power.
The deal also mandates Iran freeze all enrichment above 5 percent, "dismantle the technical connections required to enrich" above that level and allow increased inspections of their nuclear sites.
Tehran and Washington appeared to be engaging in a semantic fight over that provision, with Iranian leaders noting they had not agreed to destroy any centrifuges as part of the deal.
But the White House defined "dismantling" more narrowly and said an International Atomic Energy Agency report earlier this week indicated Iran was abiding by the terms of the nuclear deal.
"Iran has, among other things, stopped producing 20 percent enriched uranium, has disabled the configuration of the centrifuge cascades Iran has been using to produce it and has begun diluting its existing stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium," Carney said. "So we take what the IAEA says, and assesses and verifies as our guide to whether or not Iran is doing what it said it would do."
Iranian and American officials have disputed how to characterize the agreement almost as soon as it was struck. On Twitter, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani bragged that world powers had "surrendered" to Iran's "will" with the agreement.
"We expected the Iranian government to spin the commitments they made under the joint plan of action for their domestic political purposes," Carney said. "We saw that in November; we saw that earlier this month, and clearly, we're seeing it again."