In an extraordinary and unusual public admission, Obama officials confirmed Wednesday that the administration is withholding sensitive information regarding nuclear negotiations with Iran.
The White House and State Department said that critical information is not being passed on to their Israeli counterparts out of fear that government officials will try to sabotage talks by leaking sensitive information.
US senior officials are said to be privately blaming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “changing the dynamic” of what they said was a strong information sharing relationship between Israel and the US.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told the media that sharing all information regarding negotiations with the Islamic Republic and P5+1 with Israel would only complicate any efforts at reaching a final deal preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
“The United States is not going to be in a position of negotiating this agreement in public, particularly when we see that there is a continued practice of cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States,” he stated.
“So, there is an obligation when you’re participating in these kinds of negotiations to ensure that those consultations and that those negotiations are carried out in good faith. And that means giving negotiators the room and the space to negotiate,” Earnest said.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki reiterated Earnest’s comments, confirming that the Obama administration is taking careful steps to ensure that “classified negotiating details stay behind closed door.” One of these various steps, she said, is purposely withholding information from Israel.
Psaki went on to blame Israel for publicly mischaracterizing talks. “I think it’s safe to say that not everything you’re hearing from the Israeli government is an accurate reflection of the details of the talks,” she said. “There’s a selective sharing of information.”
The White House’s and State Departments admission comes after vehement denials by the administration this past week. Obama officials only admitted to the withholding of information after European officials confirmed that sensitive information was not being provided to Israel by the US.
On Monday, Netanyahu hinted to reporters that he knows Israel is being kept in the dark by the US. In a New York Times report on Tuesday, an unnamed European official directly involved in negotiations was told by State Department official Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman not to disclose too much information to Israel because “the details could be twisted to undermine a deal.”
Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that the Iranian nuclear program is anything but peaceful and poses a threat to Israel and the entire world. The prime minister has vowed to go ahead with his March 3 speech to a joint session of the US Congress to address the dangers of a nuclear Iran.