US State Department Press Briefing: Iranian Naval Activity

Posted: 02/17/2011
US Department of State
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QUESTION: Can you talk about Iran’s request to put – to run some warships through the Suez?
MR. TONER: I really can’t, Elise. I mean, I don’t know – I mean, I know that they withdrew that request or that they did not ever file a request. But as to what their intent was, I don’t know.
QUESTION: But isn’t that, I mean, concerning to you right now, given all the unrest in the region, that Iran would want to send two warships through the Suez?
MR. TONER: Again, I don’t have all the --
QUESTION: Why would they need to do that?
MR. TONER: I don’t have all the details, frankly. You’ll have to ask the Iranian Government. But my understanding is that they never actually filed a request, and it’s unclear what their intent was.
QUESTION: Mark, is there any evidence that the --
MR. TONER: Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: -- of a – some kind of split within the Iranian regime about the wisdom of proceeding forward with its nuclear program – the impact of economic sanctions, et cetera – is there any evidence of a schism within the regime?
MR. TONER: It’s a fair question. I don’t know or can’t speak to it authoritatively today. We’ve seen some signs that the sanctions have had some impact, and the best we can do is offer Iran a clear path forward and one that involves coming clean with the international community about its nuclear program, which would then lead to greater engagement and easing of sanctions.
QUESTION: Has the Department observed any slowdown on the part of the Iranians’ efforts to achieve a nuclear weapons capability?
MR. TONER: I can’t speak to that.
QUESTION: So in – do you have any assessment as to the desire of the Iranians to pursue a nuclear weapons capability? Does it remain your view that they are determined to achieve a nuclear weapons capability? That is the still the U.S. view, correct?
MR. TONER: The U.S. view is that Iran – that the international community has serious questions about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and has asked repeatedly, through the IAEA, through the P-5+1, for Iran to come clean, to address those concerns in a transparent way. And we continue to call on them to --
QUESTION: You don’t affirmatively believe that they are seeking a nuclear weapon?
MR. TONER: We are asking them to – again, to address the international community’s concerns about their nuclear program, about the intention of their nuclear program. But I’m not going to go beyond that.
QUESTION: Do they want a bomb or not? Do they want a bomb?
MR. TONER: Ask Ahmadinejad.