State Dept Spox Gets Snippy with Reporter, Suddenly Silent on Iran Negotiations

Barbara Boland | April 22, 2015
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After the Obama administration has trumpeted every detail of its ongoing negotiations with Iran, it’s suddenly gone quiet – and State Dept. Spokesperson Marie Harf got snippy with a reporter today that dared to ask why.

“Wait – you said you don’t have any calls to the Iranians there; have there been any contacts between Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Zarif in the last week?” asked a reporter at today’s State Department briefing.

“In the last week? I’m happy to check, Elyse,” replied Harf. “I think I would say broadly speaking we have a variety of ways of communicating with the Iranians, at various levels, which we use if we need to. I’d also like to remind people that this was going on while we were at Lausanne, where we were all in a hotel together for about – wait, let me finish – for about ten days.”

“As we’ve said for some time, other issues come up on the sidelines of the nuclear negotiations. So I’d, I’d just say we have a variety of ways of communicating with them and we use them if we have to,” she said.

“I’m not even making this about whether you’ve separated from Lausanne or not, I’m not really interested in that,” answered the reporter.

The reporter continued: “I think what we’re all interested in is: what role is the United States playing vis a vis the diplomatic process everyone hopes will get underway with regards to Yemen… what is the level of communication between the U.S. and the Iranians regarding this? The President said yesterday we have communicated directly to the Iranians…”

Harf interrupted: “Exactly, and we have a variety of ways of doing that at different levels, and I’m probably not going to outline more specifics.”

Iran sent a fleet of warships to the southern coast of Yemen today, increasing the likelihood of tensions and “a developing U.S.-Iranian standoff in the region,” reported the Free Beacon.

“Why is it such a difficult thing to say the Secretary spoke to the Foreign Minister?” shot back the reporter. “I mean, in the last several weeks, you’ve made this whole thing about how he spoke to the Iranian Foreign Minister more than any other Minister, and the relationship… clearly that is a narrative that’s been put out there.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever said that,” sneered Harf. “We don’t always outline every specific diplomatic conversation we have; we have a variety of ways of communicating. We were all in Lausanne together, the Secretary… with their Iranian counterparts, while a lot of this was happening.”

“And as we’ve said, on the sidelines of those negotiations, we often talk about other issues as well, so that would make a natural place …”

“Well I mean you’re parsing here,” said the reporter. “Why can’t you just say: yes, on the sidelines, we spoke about …”

Harf interrupted again: “Because we don’t always say specifically when we talk to who.”

She shrugged with the slightest hint of a smile, “We just don’t always read out those diplomatic conversations.”

Harf has had a number of run-ins with the press and was passed over today in favor of former Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby to replace Jen Psaki as the new State Department Spokesperson.